I'm a sucker for the exotic instrumentation. Perhaps it's because I grew up in the middle of the United States and I was raised on a healthy diet of strictly by-the-numbers rock and roll and country, but as soon as I started hearing the bleep bleep bloops of electronic music and instruments that had made the journey from halfway around the world (and pre-dated the guitar by hundreds of years) I was hooked. Sure, it might be hard to have a bitchin' oud solo, but that doesn't take away the fact that it sounds rad as hell.
It was only about 2 years ago that The Shalabi Effect dropped into the world of music with their huge Self-Titled debut. That release spanned two discs in length and well over 130 minutes and turned the group from "that band who was going to do the split CD with Godspeed You Black Emperor" into a force to be reckoned with. Since that release, it's obvious that the group haven't exactly been sitting on their hands. Main man Sam Shalabi not only released an album with David Kristian and Alexandre St-Onge, but a recent solo album as well (On Hashish), and the new release shows the influence of several different hands and styles.
Opening with a track that might as well be the soundtrack for the trippy album cover pictures of almost surreal swampland, "Sundog Ash" opens with the sounds of nature. Sap drips into a bucket, mixing with some deep percussion to nice effect while birds chatter alongside prepared guitar and oud. It sounds a little new-agey in description, but defies that label with lack of cheese. "Saint Orange" takes a bit more of a creepy route on the second track, with swirls of treated guitar howling in the background while watery percussion ripples off the surface and some off-kilter electronics creep into the mix for a schizophrenic ending.
Of course, even a somewhat bizarre ending does nothing to prepare one for "Mr. Titz (The Revelator)," in which absolutely racing percussion and oud play out frenetically over a drum and bass rhythm. Yes, you read that correctly, drum and bass. Sounding like a bad idea on paper (just like the track title?), the group pulls off what might just be some of the best chase music that has yet to be used. "One Last Glare" builds from the remnants of the final breakdown of that track, pacing out over 6 minutes and featuring some of the best percussive dynamics on the disc towards the end before "Sister Sleep" arrives with the trickling of water and the almost scraping breaths of a bowl played by Bryan Highbloom.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Shalabi Effect release without at least one long track, and that arrives in the form of the closing "A Glow In The Dark." Winding through several different movements, it starts out in a slightly abrasive place, before passing through some quiet, more melodic elements with scraps of electronics entering. Finally, the track builds into another fast-paced guitar and oud blowout (somewhat similar to the quickening of "Mr. Titz") before ending with a pretty guitar solo. Although it runs at a 'brisk' 50 minutes, the new ideas that gurgle up on the release show that this foursome is far from running out of ideas, even with nearly 200 minutes of music to their names in only two albums time. Packaged in a luscious, glossy cardboard foldout, this is psychedelic music for people who are sick of traditional psychedelic music (aka want psych music without the tie-die). More great music from the ever-fertile Canadian scene.