You could probably call it overindulgence if you wanted, but if the music's good, then I'm all for it. I'm not sure how to explain it, but with Godspeed You Black Emperor and all the side projects they involve (as well as labelmates) and artists like the Beans and Shalabai Effect, I'm starting to think that Canada is the new music hotspot. Sure, I've said it before, but these groups are all not only doing different things, but doing them well. While the Shalabi Effect may be a little bit too droney for some listeners, it's probably the most purely hypnotic album I've heard all year. The packaging states that it's a 130 minute psychedelia blowout, and it would be hard for me to argue that. Although I've never been very much into what I would label as "psychedelia," it's quite a good release, and the difference between my rating and a perfect one may be that I need to be on drugs to enjoy it fully.
Not only did Sam Shalabi play guitar on the A Silver Mt. Zion release He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Room, but he's the backbone of this group as well and again brings his guitarwork into play big time on the release. The interesting thing about this group, though, is that they take a much more worldly approach in regards to creation of their sound. With numerous people involved and roughly 40 instruments played on the release, it ranges from middle-eastern to Indian sounds and everything from spaced-out guitars, wacky electronics, and Tibetan bowls make their way into the long tracks on the two discs.
The first disc only has 5 different tracks, but still runs over 65 minutes, as the group stretches everything out. The opener of "Wyoming" drifts with disconnected percussion and guitar plucking over a steady drone (and makes you feel like you're lost somewhere in the high plains) while "Vicious Triangle" pulls several different strummed instruments together into sort of a shimmering frenzy. "Mending Holes In A Wooden Heart" starts out with a rather schizophrenic violin, but then drifts into something that at first sounds like a dusty western before moving into a more Middle-Eastern sound. The last two tracks on the first disc work together and total up for 36 minutes. "Aural Florida (Approach)" brings an electric guitar into the mix, while the longer "Aural Florida" continues it's use with striking wails over more plucked instruments.
Although the second disc continues where the first one left off, the songs feel a little bit tighter in structure. I'm not sure whether it's because they average a shorter length (instead of 5, there are 8 tracks) or whether it was a conscious decision to not let things drift quite as much. The disc opens up strong with the interwinding plucking of guitar and sitar and whatever else on "Mokoondi," while some sort of flute and some interesting percussion wrap themselves around the track. The most normally structured song on the entire album (and also one of the best probably) is the nearly 15-minute length "On The Bowery." It combines some very nice percussion with just the right amount of electric guitar and about 10 other instruments into a nicely progressing track. It's also the only song that features vocals on the release and the two part dreamy female vocals mixed with the ocassional baritone male vocal bit give yet another nice layer to the track.
Even the space photography of the cloud nebula on the glossy paper cover works perfectly with the sound. Sure, it's sort of an easy way out to use images of stellar bodies on a tranced-out piece of work such as this, but it fits pretty well and like packaging by their Canadian neighbor label of Constellation, it's very nicely done. Basically, if you're looking for some trance music, but prefer something a little more organic sounding (although still sort of otherworldly), Shalabi Effect is where it's at. It may be a little too repetitive in structure and sound for some listeners (what else were you expecting from psychedelia music?), but you'll be drifting, drifting in no time at all.