Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Sunday Best
Genre(s): Electronic, Downtempo, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance, IDM, Neo-Disco, Chillwave
Irish duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench have arrived at the third album in their ongoing sonic quest. After releasing 2013’s Supermigration on Planet Mu, the duo may have found the perfect label in the charismatic Sunday Best, which is known for passionately supporting its small but eclectic roster. Matching Kowalski’s astute crate-digging with Trench’s production experience, the duo cook up a wide range of gripping electronic moods, from luxurious electro to cinematic panoramas, charged with extra-terrestrial juxtapositions, perhaps resulting from the album’s being the sum of recordings made in different locations.
Following two well-received albums and an EP for Mike Paradinas' Planet Mu, Irish electronic duo Solar Bears moved to Rob Da Bank's Sunday Best label for the release of their third full-length, 2016's Advancement. While the duo's music has always possessed a cinematic flair, with science fiction particularly being their calling -- their name is a reference to Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 classic Solaris -- Advancement sounds like their most soundtrack-worthy material yet. The group's previous releases featured a wide array of instruments and textures, heavy on guitars and live drums as well as electronics, and 2013's Supermigration found the duo heading closer to the pop realm with the additions of guest vocals by Air collaborator Beth Hirsch and Greek vocalist Sarah P.
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.
Solar Bears have a talent for blending together all kinds of ideas: the indifferent nostalgia of library music, British Isles mysticism, classic film scores and a sense of windswept grandeur. Their first album, 2010's She Was Coloured In, laid out the style nicely, which Supermigration followed with song-oriented music. After Irish duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench seemed to disappear altogether, they've re-emerged three years later with Advancement, moving from Planet Mu to Sunday Best.Kowalski and Trench's core method hasn't changed, but everything is bigger and bolder this time.
Ireland may generally be better known for its folk musicians and cheesy boy bands than experimental electronica, but the emergence of Solar Bears over the past few years has given the Emerald Isle its own answer to the likes of England’s Fuck Buttons and Scotland’s Boards of Canada. A duo hailing from Dublin and Wicklow respectively, John Kowalski and Rian Trench met at sound engineering college and to date have released two albums of cinematic, Krautrock-influenced compositions on the Planet Mu label. Advancement, their first record for the Sunday Best imprint that also has David Lynch (one of the band’s heroes) on its roster, is another solid demonstration of their qualities.