Solilians: Shin (Goodbye Better, 2016)

Solilians: Shin (Goodbye Better, 2016)

by Jason

Solilians are a dreamy, electro-psychedelic, slowcore band that mixes Mediterranean elements with some touches of shoegaze spaciness. They play with drones and ambient textures throughout their patient compositions, giving Shin a very meditative feel. The band consists of Sharon Malkin, Benjamin Malkin, Gabirle Walsh, and Neptune Sweet. Shin also boasts a cavalcade of musical guests including Merc (All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors and MRC Riddims), Dan Blacksberg (Deveykus) and John Cep (Stargazer Lilies). Shin is a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and S. Malkin sings in Hebrew throughout the album. This is also a reference to the stories surrounding Leonard Nimoy, Spock, and the sign for “live long and prosper.”  In fact, the album is dedicated to the late Leonard Nimoy. Her vocals give the beautiful drones, textures, and electronic elements an organic, Mediterranean feel. The elements work in concert and play off of one another well.

Shin begins with “Hine Ma Tov (Merc Yes Mix)”. S. Malkin sings the beautiful Shabbat festal hymn over electronic beats that never overpower her beautifully hypnotic vocals. Merc’s work here is beautifully composed. Strings are periodically in the mix with a long, deep drone playing under all the percussion. Piano plays a bit of the melody and what sounds like horns punctuate the spaces in the soundscapes. The track is slow and patient, giving it an almost slowcore, electronic vibe. As the band’s description says, this is something like Stereolab slowed down. “Hatikvah: The Next Generation” is the national anthem of Israel sung beautifully over sparse drums and twinkling piano. A slight, simple drone plays as a floor to the track while a recessed vocal plays off S. Malkin’s more up front singing of the anthem.

“Lamedvavniks” is an ambient piece clocking in at 8:20. It begins with dreamy synths that lean more toward changing here and there, with some fits and starts, rather than remaining consistent. It’s quite calming, despite my description. There are voices, both in bass and tenor, singing “ahs” in the deep recesses of the soundscape. Sweet whispers lines, appearing here and there as an angelic voice among the dreamy, meditative mood. At about 7 minutes in, a beat enters with pensive guitars playing over the drones. “Rev’s Gold” has a very slow trip-hop style beat with piano playing in the left speaker faintly in the distance. A warbling drone plays through the track as S. Malkin sings in Hebrew, recessed in the mix. It’s a beautiful, brief piece that sits almost squarely at the center of the album.

“Hine Ma Tove (Space Drone Dream Mix)” is the second longest track on the disc, clocking in at 13:18. Horns play in the mix with a deep drone and hints of a piano playing a very slow melodic line. Metallic tinkles play about in the soundspace while S. Malkin says the Sabbat prayer, sometimes up in the mix, sometimes in the right speaker or in the left. It’s variations in repeating slow, drone lines and brief melodies are almost spiritual and calming. “I have been, and always shall be, your friend” is a brief track with a gorgeous drone and ethereal vocals. It’s an almost mournful track with touches of hope and otherworldly moods throughout.

“Planet Binah” has an almost violin synth drone, some deep, rumbling tones, and spacey vocals. It is sparse and beautifully composed. This is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 13:36, and Solilians is patient and thoughtful as the track moves forward. The builds and layers are very subtle but absorbing all the pieces requires multiple listens. Sweet’s vocals become more frequent as the piece comes closer to the end and the synths subtly swell in volume here and there, but only slightly. There is never a huge release or rumble. “Post-Reb’s Reprise” begins with humming piano and small, subtle synth sounds peering from behind the more dominant piano. Drones play about as small, almost robotic sounds bleep in and out of the mix. The track eventually faces into silence as the album ends.

Shin is a slow moving, almost avant-garde electronic album that, in many ways, defies any effort to label it, although I clearly have tried here. Solilians move from drone/ambient, slowcore electronica to Mediterranean flavored moments throughout. The band isn’t afraid to experiment and utilize various sounds and instruments to create an emotive, contemplative, and often spiritual experience for the listener. Solilians take the listener on a journey through beautiful, ethereal landscapes that ought not be missed.

(A side note is necessary here. I have experienced the album in its cd track order. The band has changed that order in digital format to provide a different experience. Both are ultimately gorgeous and the album should be listened from front to back in both orders. Therefore, when you go to their Bandcamp in the link below, you will find a different track order than expressed in this review.)


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