Shalabi Effect The Trial of St-Orange

[Alien8; 2002]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: experimental, minimal
Others: Collections of Colonies of Bees, David Grubbs

I want to preface this review by saying that this is the hardest album I’ve ever had to review. Coincidentally, my review may be a little short due to this fact. There aren’t many albums out today that are as decadent and demanding as Shalabi Effect’s latest release, The Trial of St-Orange. This formless creation will have you pulling your hair out of your scalp, while simultaneously begging you to listen one more time. I’d say I’ve listened to it about five times today. Jaded music fans beware: this album may just be for you.

When I became aware that Shalabi Effect would be releasing a new album, I immediately hurdled at the opportunity to review it. Man, did I set myself up for some hard work. In 2000 Shalabi Effect released their self-titled album on Alien8 Recordings. The label is well known for releasing some of today’s most experimental music. Shalabi Effect is an album that is both epic in size and intensity. Although The Trial of St-Orange is about half the duration of their previous release, it’s definitely not lacking in the intensity department. You’ll still need several sticks of incense and a nice comfortable chair for this lush collection of songs…seven, to be exact. Unlike Shalabi Effect, The Trial of St-Orange seems to be more influenced by the swamps than by Middle Eastern culture.

“Sundog Ash” begins the album by slowly sucking the listener in. Looking at the cover art of the album will basically tell you what this track sounds like. It starts with immaculate field recordings of the swap before being taken over by a simple acoustic guitar. The song remains this way until “Saint Orange” takes it’s place and slowly, but surely, takes you to a higher level of concentration. The climax of The Trial of St-Orange is the track “Mr. Titz (The Revelator).” Imagine “Aural Florida” from Shalabi Effect, but with more depth and just a taste of drum-n-bass. You heard me correctly…drum-n-bass. Not enough to make this a drum-n-bass album, but just enough to make you almost wish there was more. It’s the law of diminishing returns at it’s finest. The final track, “A Glow in the Dark,” is a 21-minute improvisational mind warp. However, the last four minutes of this track are incredibly beautiful. After the ride you’ve been on, you’ll need it to recuperate. Consider it a final gift from the band.

Accurately reviewing this album is extremely difficult. It’s an album you should hear for yourself. If you enjoyed Shalabi Effect’s debut, you will more than likely appreciate this one. If you’ve never heard the experimental sounds of Shalabi Effect, or anything on the Alien8 Recordings label for that matter, you’re in for a big surprise. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1. Sundog Ash
2. Saint Orange
3. Mr. Titz (The Revelator)
4. One Last Glare
5. Sister Sleep
6. Uma
7. A Glow in the Dark