I wouldn’t say no to the idea of living in California for a while. Sun-soaked beaches, attractive women wandering the streets in barely anything, and a lifestyle that is second to none. Initially, it’s this kind of glorious temperament that permeates throughout the Bay Area-based Sholi’s self titled debut album; light breezes and balmy days are embedded within the very fabric of the material here.
The band has been making their fair share of ripples in the musical ocean in past years – praised by critics for the unifying concept of their 7” release ‘Hejrat’, and enlisting the production advice of Greg Saunier (Deerhoof). His help creates a grungy sheen around the otherwise bright, clean cut guitars in tracks such as ‘All That We Can See’. The opening track itself seems to be a tribute to days spent lazing around to old Pink Floyd albums. It flutters and flits like a nervous butterfly, unsure of where it wishes to be, before finding the confidence to set a determined path of pulsating guitars.
There’s an unmistakable air of self assurance here, a kind of confidence you wouldn’t normally associate with what is essentially a small time band still on the first couple of rungs of the industry ladder. The album adapts sounds well, from the off-kilter composition of ‘Tourniquet’ (which features a bassline similar to Charlottefield’s ‘Backwards’) to the brooding balladry of ‘Spy In The House Of Memories’.
But the most convicted performance comes from drummer Jonathon Bafus and his dominating presence at the spine of every track. The best example is probably found in the closing moments of ‘Dance For Hours’. Initially, it’s a rather tepid, glimmering track similar to the others, but in the song’s dying breaths Bafus creates a wall of deafening crashes, not so much concluding the track but obliterating it.
There are a few misses among the hits. ‘November Through June’ is devoid of much of the playful guitar that is a boon in better tracks, and ‘Out Of Orbit’ is erratic in nature, sounding like a few filler ideas that were forced together to fulfil its nearly seven-minute running time. In fact, this is a recurring issue here. Closer ‘Contortionist’ opens well, with a devilish guitar line that excites, but struggles to really go anywhere, instead slowing to a crawl to its eventual conclusion.
Sholi are making a brave venture into criss-crossing two potentially alienating genres. It revels in the kind of proggy eclecticism that excites 40-year-old men, but also has a reverence for the kind of lo-fi, understated charm that is slowly filling the charts. It’s a tricky thing to balance, and their debut struggles to stay interesting for long. The technical knowhow of the musicians wears thin when it doesn’t really feel like things are going anywhere fast, and the laid-back performance of Bavafa on vocals tends to cause impatience more than wonder. Their confidence however is impressive, and it should be interesting to see where they go from here – early on they prove they can be a dynamic, exciting act, and I hope that they will explore this side on future releases.
Originally published at Sonic Dice.