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Solar Bears’ previous was another of those records indebted to that kind of hazed ‘70s melancholy that streams through records by the likes of Boards of Canada, Bibio and Seeland. This new one has a similar soft synth led sound but beefs it up with full band performances with what sounds like real live drummer and bass player, the result being something more in keeping with Air or Blue States.
They toy with vocals as on ‘Cosmic Runner’, I have a constant bee in my bonnet about how vocals are added to electronic music, electronic artists seem to often use technically perfect vocalists that lack character or presentation, but here Beth Hirsch’s clean, straight-laced vocals fit in perfectly with the tight arrangements. The track is nicely put together, the keyboard sounds are obviously desperately in thrall to 1970s children’s tv themes, BBC Radiophonic Workshop but in adding a more ‘band’ dynamic Solar Bears are taking the sounds out of their usual context and it works nicely.
On ‘Alpha People’ things are stripped back to create a delicious instrumental that recalls Stereolab and High Llamas more soundtracky work. ‘The Girl That Played With Light’ sums up what I like about this record, squelchy synths meet a chunky bassline and Cure-like guitar lines to create a quite delightful instrumental piece that shows hints of New Order, ‘You and Me’ uses a bed of picked acoustic guitars to sit beneath some lovely synths, this is the nearest the band get to that Boards of Canada shards of sunlight sound and it’s very effective. They seem to veer between these quieter pieces and more upbeat exursions which keeps the thing nicely varied, fans of Pye Corner Audio (mmm pye) and the current vogue of synth led ‘70s soundtrack enthusiasts could do well to add this to the list.
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