Sam Shalabi

Unfortunately

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Some listeners, especially people who fell in love with Shalabi Effect's third album, Pink Abyss, will interpret this one's title as: Unfortunately, They Went Back to Their Old Style. And it's true to a certain extent, so be warned: nothing on Unfortunately comes close to the song format featured on the previous album. Instead, Sam Shalabi and company pick up where they had left off with The Trial of St. Orange and move a few steps deeper into multi-stylistic strangeness, setting up a thick set of parentheses around Pink Abyss in the process. That said, the group is in top creative shape here. The album was recorded live over three days in May 2005, rehearsals and recording sessions being open to the public. It conveys the risky edge of Shalabi Effect's performances, and you never quite know what the musicians will do next. The music ranges from wild, raucous free improvisations ("Out of the Closet") and slightly more beat-driven jams ("Monobrow") to oriental pieces featuring oud and tabla ("Harpie," with guest double bassist Thierry Ammar) and sampled Asian pop ("Pai Nai"). The whole sound palette from the group's previous albums is here in sampled or real form: string sections, acoustic guitar, psychedelic fuzz guitar, piano, ethnic percussion, etc. It is as if Shalabi, Anthony Seck, Alexandre St-Onge, and Will Eizlini decided to bring along every instrument, sound, and style they had previously worked with, crushed them, and went on to explore new territory with the pieces. This is a bold attempt at reinventing their project, and a successful one. But again, if you thought Pink Abyss was a difficult listen, stay away from this.

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