Listening - Wednesday, Jan 22nd 2020

Shalabi Effect

Shalabi Effect was a dorm room touchstone. My friend introduced me to this record. I remember just hanging out and comparing our personal lists of mind-blowing albums, listening and geeking out on our favorite moments. Do people do that sort of thing still? I hope so! Also, of course, we both played in a freeform electroacoustic jam band at the time so this album wasn’t just a cool thing, it was research for us.

Despite that and its influence on me at the time, I never spent a ton of time with it on my own. A couple years ago when everyone decided that CDs were no good anymore I started trolling discogs for classic albums being dumped for pennies… (People are still dumping their CDs like garbage so if you’re one of those people who doesn’t hate CDs, be advised.) Anyway I hadn’t thought about that album at all since college but I wanted to give it another chance.

Today I played the first disc five times in a row and I think the whole thing finally might have really clicked for me. It was an especially productive work day, and I think I owe at least some of that focus and productivity to this album. I had the experience over & over of putting the record on, getting absorbed in some work, and then noticing the album was over and I guess another 65 minutes had passed. The first few times I replayed it were just to try to pin it down enough in my mind that I might be able to write something about it later on, but eventually I got sucked into the magical rhythm of it dilating time over & over.

Shalabi Effect has some heritage with American jam bands like The Grateful Dead or even Phish, to my ears. Those moments aren’t totally pervasive but there’s plenty of juicy psych guitar for the lover of the classic 70s style freak out. Still, the vibe of the record is a much more atmospheric tambura-like undulation of guitar and synths and textural percussion that really does a great job of stirring up a meditative vortex and sucking you into a timeless spin for a rewarding but hazy 65 minutes.

I was a little afraid to play disc two so soon after. Chiastic Slide and a healthy interval of silence made a nice chaser to that experience though. I think Chiastic Slide gets better every time I listen to it. Somehow it always surprises me how good it is – that rhythmic modulation in the opening track, oof! The sound design is gorgeous on this one too. They were at the top of their game in 1996.