Initially rather too derivative of psychedelic chillout icons Shpongle to stand out, Israeli duo Shulman soon escaped their influences to become a downtempo act with their own special combination of quirks, musicality and brave experimentation. Their third and fourth albums stand among the greatest electronica releases of the 2000's.

artist:
Shulman

country of origin:
Israel

style(s):
Psyambient, experimental, ambient dub, lounge, breaks

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Random Thoughts (2006, Aleph Zero)
  • Endless Rhythms Of A Beatless Heart (2007, Aleph Zero)

Reviewed by Mike G

Initially rather too derivative of psychedelic chillout icons Shpongle to stand out, Israeli duo Shulman (Omri Harpaz and Aleph Zero Records founder Yaniv Shulman) soon escaped their influences to become a downtempo act with their own special combination of quirks, musicality and brave experimentation. Their third and fourth albums stand among the greatest electronica releases of the 2000's

Random Thoughts (2006) appeared at a time when downtempo sounds from the global psychedelic trance scene were plentiful but becoming increasingly formulaic. Many producers seemed content to wheel out the same old presets and samples: trancey arpeggios, plundered ethnic voice samples and slow dubby drum loops. Add a Terrence McKenna spoken sample or two and presto! - another piece of fodder for trippers and stoners.

In stark contrast, Random Thoughts felt like a blast of fresh air at the time and, even though it's a collection of bits and pieces rather than a single focused project, it remains a superb collection of forward-thinking chillout music. The band's genuine compositional ability benefits greatly from their quest to keep uncovering fresh sounds and combinations with their digital paintbox. From the brooding, stuttering tech-lounge of the eleven-minute opener "OMG" to the beatless and bleepy collage of "Staring At The Abyss", the requisite surrealism of the genre no longer sounds tired. There's variety aplenty too; "Look Honey" is mad electronic jazz and something of a misstep but the vocal track "I Dive" is a totally immersive, deeply dreamy ambient pop song. The album also includes three remixes the duo have done for other artists, highlighted by a reworking of Entheogenic's "Spaced" which gets an unexpected and brilliant touch with a Hammond organ solo.

Endless Rhythms Of A Beatless Heart (2007) finds Shulman once again treading their own distinctive path with a mixture of ultra crisp beats, Arabic flavours, shimmering chords and geometric shapes. It works best when it follows a convincing melodic line; a couple of glitchy, squawky tracks come off as decidedly cold but they're not enough to overshadow what is another inventive and beautiful album. The shining jewel here is the 12-minute “Transmissions In Bloom", a haunting and inspired exploration around a simple chord progression with melodic contributions from electric guitar, vocal chants and Moroccan wind instruments. It's a stunning track, high on the all-important goosebump factor, slowly building and unfolding with such a profound sense of longing you don’t want it to end.

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