It’s not often that you hear of bands from the Sacramento region, let alone from the little college town of Davis, CA. But that’s where the Sholi started, as a group of friends that started playing together while attending the University of California, Davis.
It originally started as a duo of Payam Bavafa (vocals, guitar) and Jonathon Bafus (drums) with some collaboration with pseudo-muse Danny Milks. Bavafa and Bafus were later joined by old friend Eric Ruud (bass, vocals) to become Sholi, the name Bavafa recalls as “the nickname my dad gave my brother and me when we wrestled as kids. I wanted a Persian word that sounded nice in English, and Jon liked that one” (press release).
The past or at least the memory of it is a theme on the band’s self-titled debut. Much of that has to do with Bavafa’s time processing brain waves and analyzing data on memory and sleep. His former life as an electrical engineer permeates through some of the album, most clearly aurally in setting the mood of “Spy In The House of Memories” than anything apparent lyrically until you got through the eerie bulk to the somewhat comforting final lines: “Take your mind, it’s not wanted here / We decide what we cherish and what we forget / We leave on the other end.”
Things get more slightly more unforgiving and maybe unethical in the haunting “Out Of Orbit” where “I’ve gone to undo all / Buttons holding heart and holding head / Calling out all pockets / We need a replacement.” The world should be grateful that Bavafa has found a new profession, although one in which his explorations toward the perspective (“Any Other God”) can at times be mistaken for the sublime (“Tourniquet”). Wrapped in a sedate yet jarring certainty, the latter track displays the kindness needed most in the world: “I know you’re sick of it, but we’re all tired/ Hey man hold your fire, hold your fire / I’ll wait for your turn, you wait for mine.”
For almost forty-four minutes, the former Davis trio fills their debut LP with eight impressively expansive and non-exhaustive tracks reminiscent of a mellower, more indie, and less glitzy Radiohead.