Solar Bears Advancement

Solar Bears Advancement
7
After three releases on the influential Planet Mu label, Irish duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench (known collectively as Solar Bears) deliver their third LP, Advancement on London-based Sunday Best.
 
Known for their psychedelic leanings, the band sound suitably analog-focused here, with plenty of effects washes and spaced-out soundscapes suggestive of a more organic Boards of Canada. There is a studied, cinematic feel to many of the tracks here: advance single "Man Plus" flirts with John Carpenter-esque brooding, and later things get beautifully galactic on "Persona," which conjures a glistening spacecraft docking slowly, elegantly against a star-swept abyss. Late album highlight "Gravity Calling" is a solemn head-bobber sporting a tempo a few notches above the rest, a welcome reprieve from the sometimes-plodding movement of the rest of the album.
 
There are a couple of late-album missteps: "Longer Life" is a boring trudge that sounds scooped from the cutting-room floor of Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack, and "Everything Set Ablaze" is frankly uninspired, a spacey synth vamp that (perhaps in a bid to achieve some kind of Space Odyssey-esque majesty), suddenly morphs into an orchestral string arrangement for its final moments; whatever is going on here conceptually, it's pulled off haphazardly.
 
That said, the good easily outweighs the bad on Advancement, and at its best, it's excellent. The pair have a knack for dynamism that keeps things interesting, and their production style has a compelling crunchiness to it that manages to sound modern without laying on the sheen. (Sunday Best Recordings)