Shalabi Effect - Unfortunately (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Shalabi Effect

Unfortunately (2005)

Alien 8

Montreal's eclectic ambient group Shalabi Effect really are making things too easy by titling their album this. For example: "Unfortunately, this album is unlistenable" or "The Shalabi Effect, although I can see the effort here, have unfortunately created an album that is more torturous than enjoyable." I could just leave it at that, but I do give this band a little more credit so I will expand some for you all.

The quartet that is the Shalabi Effect describes their music as "cinematic" and I think that is a decent way to start. 13-minute opener "Out of the Closet" makes you aware of just what you're in for: noisy drones and squeaks layered with horror movie samples, some of which are quite freaky or just gross-sounding. If you can make it through that track (I couldn't say "song"), they reward you with a couple more musical moments like the next track "Pai Nai," which actually sounds kinda rockin' based on gritty guitar and drum groundwork with noisy electronics over top, but they don't even give you two minutes of it.

This, their fourth album, is a live album, but is entirely new material. It was recorded at the Montreal Arts Interculturelles over four shows that must have been improvisational jams, the band then going back and selecting the best results to create this album. It seems like it would be an excruciating experience to sit through one of their live sets. I could be wrong, maybe it would be fun to watch a guy manipulate samples or depress a key on a synthesizer for extended periods, but I'm not thinking it would. At least I can't say these guys sound like Thursday -- and I thank them and reward them a star for that -- the closest comparison to these guys would be 20th century avant-garde / minimalist / world composer Philip Glass. I have to give them some additional points for being like nothing I've ever reviewed before, and points because I respect what they are trying to do.

There are cool things goin' on and there's definitely talent and thought buried in here, like the tabla playing and Middle Eastern melodic themes in the guitar on "Harpie." Then there is the gently picked acoustic guitar that makes "Half Life" almost like an actual song for about 2½ minutes before the metallic squeals and clinks take over; or the piano in "Beluga" paired with hushed "ooo's" and a whistling-type effect. But the sampled screams and Suicide-style pulsing drum machines like in the eight-minute "Monobrow" just make me crazy. Maybe if there was a movie for me to look at when their "cinematic" music is playing, it could be effective and creepy in a cool way. But just sitting here trying to write this review with only the audio element pumping into my brain makes reviewing feel like actual work -- and I can't wait to punch out.