Sholi
Sholi


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
March 1st, 2009 | 79 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sholi's debut LP is an intelligent indie album that hinges off of unexpected contrasts and a truly amazing drum performance.

Two and half years ago I was driving home and listening to Stanford College Radio. Emerging from the needlessly esoteric setlist that likely contained Chilean dubstep or Icelandic black metal came beautiful, fluttering drumming and a wistful guitar arpeggio that woke me from my highway coma. What I heard was the free time opening to "All That We Can See," a track that leapt out at me, not just from the strange college radio fare, but also in terms of the indie genre as a whole. Sholi's style balanced being impressionistic, emotive, and hypnotic with being taut, invigorating, and intelligently composed. Not that indie artists never do that, but rarely do you get a band that strips indie of its bombast and production gimmicks and replaces that with instrumental interplay and musicianship. Not the since the late 90s and early 00s, when bands like Cursive and Karate were still considered indie did such a sound thrive. Now, after a three-song EP, a split with The Dead Science, and a covers EP (they did a great version of "The Sprout and the Bean"), Sholi are releasing their first official full-length on Quarterstick Records.

A listener first encountering Sholi might grasp for similar artists in an attempt to contextualize Sholi's elusive sound. Minus the Bear's most recent album, Planet of Ice comes to mind when considering the longer tracks on the album, and singer Payam Bavafa's voice certainly resembles Jake Snider's, but the synthesizer and prog influences are no where to be found. Indie groups of the late 90s that paid their bills on clean-tone guitar arpeggios and emotive vocals like Cursive or Sunny Day Real Estate seem comparable, but Sholi work those in for texture and groove rather than melodrama. Another band from that era, Karate, similarly incorporates slight jazz inflections in their otherwise streamlined sound, but Sholi's similar ideas manifest in the bravado drumming of Jonathon Bafus, as opposed to the guitar playing of Geoff Farina. There are even flourishes of math rock in the mix with alternating time signatures and heavily hammered guitar patterns, and until the vocals entered on "Contortionist," I thought I was listening to some recently unearthed Off Minor B-side. Clearly, Sholi can't be cornered by their influences and similar artists, as their sound has incorporated a range of familiar instrumental tactics without any of the associated baggage. The songs are certainly ecstatic and enjoyable, but with a level-headedness and reserved quality that similar bands forget during epic wankfests or heart-on-the-sleeve vocal performances.

Much of this composure and patience originates in Payam's excitingly droll vocal delivery. His voice escalates to points where he is shouting or singing at the high end of his range, but somehow his tone always feels just detached enough from his own delivery to keep Sholi's songs from derailing. More often than not, Payam sings headily and elongates his melodies, allowing them to wrap around phrase endings, which gives his vocals a penetration they may not have enjoyed considering the surfacey quality of his melodies. Overall, his vocal performance is probably the single biggest agent in Sholi's tendency to enrapture the listener. Contrasting Sholi's hypnotic side, is the more immediate side created by the instrumental performances featuring Payam on guitar and Eric Ruud on bass. These two parts are the main reasons I've made comparisons between Sholi and bands like Cursive. Tim Kasher's guitar strategies from Domestica seep through the seams with Payam and Ruud engaging in a lot of contrapuntal exchanges and big chord progressions that create a textured thicket of melodic and harmonic ideas. The playing is a little more rugged and emotive than the reserved vocals, counterbalancing those two elements nicely. The glue that binds these two opposing forces is the drum performance of Jonathan Bafus. Bafus is at once a machine, producing accurate and technical beats to cradle the verses and choruses, but also refreshingly loose with his playing, favoring pointillistic explorations of his entire drum kit. The level of detail and difficulty he works into his parts requires a dedication to technicality that aligns his performance with the guitar and bass work, but the way he approaches smearing together different sounds and creating neverending fills is an essential part of Sholi's rapture.

The final clue in the mystery of Sholi's sound is the way they construct their songs as units, which, unsurprisingly, also tread the line between being harmonically-driven and texturally-driven. For example, look at the alternating passages of "Spy in the House of Memories." The song is content to break down into longing, ambient passages, only to jump back into sections that gives the listener cadential turnarounds. "All That We Can See" is a balancing act between the free-time drumming and the anchoring guitar arpeggios that escort the listener into the comparatively stable verses. Maybe the most seamless blend of the two philosophies comes on "Contortionist," where the drumming continuously propels the song along its rapid pace, but does so with beats so shifty and elusive that the listener never quite grasps them. On top of that, the gyrations of the guitar and the smooth Rhodes piano only further this quicksand-like musical phenomenon. The album goes out differently than it came in though. Instead of expressionistic musicianship and open-sounding chord voicings, the album winds down on one of Sholi's more harmonically stable and deterministic progressions, only to fizzle out in a smooth ambient fade. It is with these curious contrasts that Sholi makes their mark. Their self-titled LP is diaphanous and elusive, but leaves the listener deeply moved nonetheless.



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user ratings (79)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2009


17231 Comments


I'm a couple songs in and I must say, this is pretty good.

SeaAnemone
February 16th 2009


20982 Comments


Sweet album art... this sounds like something I'd like.

Digging: Viet Cong - Viet Cong

NortherlyNanook
February 16th 2009


1285 Comments


I gave this a listen yesterday, and it's very good. This style of indie is usually pretty agreeable with me.

Edit: It's also good to see that I'm not crazy for seeing the similarities to Cursive.This Message Edited On 02.16.09

rasputin
February 16th 2009


14555 Comments


Fantastic review Nick, I'm sold.

thebhoy
Emeritus
February 16th 2009


4461 Comments


yeah, nice review, I'm interested in this. For some reason this reads like a cross between the drumming of The Dodos and the time-signature hopping of Born Ruffians, but I'm probably way wrong.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
February 16th 2009


3782 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was listening to the myspace tracks last night and jotted them down on my list of bands to check out and now you write this up, lol.

Mendigo
February 17th 2009


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sounds really nice, got me interested. reading indie and amazing drum performance in the same sentence made me immedatiately think of The Dodos ;)

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2009


7025 Comments


Great review as always Nick, and great album too (I'm only halfway through it though).

gaslightanthem
February 17th 2009


5209 Comments


man this is a cool album, i was gonna do this but w/e good review

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2009


7025 Comments


it is kind of boring though...

rasputin
February 17th 2009


14555 Comments


[quote=Greer]Bafus is at once a machine, producing accurate and technical beats to cradle the verses and choruses[/quote]
Had my first listen, and this is very accurate.

Mikesn
Emeritus
February 17th 2009


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

myspace songs were pretty good, will listen to the rest in a bit

204409
Emeritus
February 17th 2009


3996 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ya thanks for the comments. I really like these guys and I hope everybody checks them out.

For the curious who don't want to trek to myspace, I uploaded the first track on the album, "All That We Can See" to the artist page. However, my version is that original version I mentioned I heard on the radio from their demo ep, so I didn't want to associate it with this album, since it's not the same recording heard on this album. Either way, it's a great track and you should check these guys out.

charlesfishtitz
February 17th 2009


784 Comments


this is pretty much a snoozefest

lunchforthesky
February 18th 2009


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Insturmentally it's excellent. Vocally it's really poor.

thebhoy
Emeritus
February 18th 2009


4461 Comments


these guys are pretty good.

SnackaryBinx
February 18th 2009


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol it's poor vocally. there goes lunchforthesky bringing the trlolz again.

first song is amazing.

Glomp
February 19th 2009


81 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have the EP and it rocks, I need to get this really soon.

tarethere
February 19th 2009


184 Comments


Not that indie artists never do that
fix? i could be wrong..

thebhoy
Emeritus
February 19th 2009


4461 Comments


No, there isn't anything grammatically wrong with it. It does sound kind of awkward though.



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