Clocking in at nearly an hour, She Was Coloured In, the debut album from Irish duo Solar Bears, could not be appreciated in any other format but as a long-player. John Kowalski and Rian Trench pair live string and guitar instrumentation with an array of synths and digital effects to create a sort of anti-electronica that fights against the sometimes plastic coldness of the genre with organic warmth.
Sounding like a more guitar-heavy Emeralds, Solar Bears combine elements of IDM, folktronica and drone rock, forging a mostly wordless landscape, lush with variety and cinematic in affect. Listening to the album tracks individually sets you up for failure. She Was Coloured In is best understood when allowed to play out in its entirety; it requires patience, and demands your undivided attention.
Drama runs high across the album, Solar Bears making use of climactic builds as a means of tying together the vast range of sounds. Opening with pacing guitar and one of the album’s few uses of vocal samples, “Forest Of Fountains” measures out just the right amount of intro to gain footing before its long drum and synth climb to the top. Within a single track, there are multiple peaks and valleys, and it is this compositional structure that defines the album.
Solar Bears arsenal of reference points is boundless. The slow mo disco churn and vocoder vocals of “Children Of The Times” recall some of Daft Punk’s more somber selections while the brassy, driving industrial pace of “The Quiet Planet” seemingly draws inspiration from Violator-era Depeche Mode. The album’s many influences are united under nostalgia provided by sounds of pastoral folk interspersed throughout (“Solarization”, “Perpetual Meadow”, to name the two most prominent). The combination of live instrumentation bolstered with digital accoutrements fills the tracks with organic tones that transport the listener back to electronic music’s earlier days, leaving She Was Coloured In resting happily in vintage film score territory.
She Was Coloured In is one of those albums easily labeled “not for everyone.” But if you appreciate instrumental structure and are willing to give Solar Bears your undivided attention for an hour you’ll be rewarded with a wonderfully inventive, nostalgic trip.