Halou - Halou (2008)
I wasn’t prepared for what was waiting for me inside this album. The unthinkable happened after just 5 songs or so, because that’s the amount of songs I lasted before going “Wait, there’s something going on here…”. And if you ever listened to another Halou album, you will probably feel the same as me.
And what is exactly that thing that happened while listening to this? Very simple, because while I always considered Halou’s music to be some sort of hybrid between a post-rock band with reminiscences of trip hop and ambient to some extent, this album changed completely my perception about them in a very good way, and not just that, also the dream pop genre in general.
You see, just when you were expecting another marathon of soft, ambient rock and textures that blends with trip hop imagery for moments, you discover instead a much, much heavier post-rock performance that makes us reflect on why wasn’t this formula been brought up earlier. But that’s not the catch, because this album certainly is not about the attempt at being just edgier and rougher than before just for the sake of it, the brightest part is the fact that while this sounds more like an alternative rock album, it never really crosses the line, it stays like the anonymous band that just wants to be recognized by their essence and not because of a stubborn guitar riff that repeats on your head over and over until you pull the plug and shut it off.
The line between alternative rock and post-rock is blurred to the point where neither is recognizable as a single entity, and somehow it still manages to subconsciously remind us about Halou’s nearly trip hop roots. And don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting that this brings the best of all of the above worlds together, because this can hardly be considered a masterpiece in each of those respective genres, but what this album does, it does it brilliantly and it never feels like it is sneaking somewhere it doesn’t belong.
Something I’m thankful for is the fact that even when the alternative rock label is fully on at any moment, the general consensus seems to be stay focused in achieving this even, almost calculated balance between attitude and instrumentation, neither takes over the other at any moment. Somebody might think that this approach just proves that the band didn’t have enough courage to pursue a much bolder sound, or that the variety of songs is just not diverse enough, and I would have bought that argument at first, but at some point you realize that holding up on that temptation and staying with the same structure gives this album the advantage of not burning through all your energies at first, allowing them to be spread more evenly.
For those who haven’t actually listened to this, this description might seem like this is a sour, mucho macho kind of record, when surprisingly is exactly the opposite. Rebecca Coseboom is always an amazing performer, and she completely morphed from previous albums where we were used to her soft and nearly whispering voice. Here, she manages to match the album intentions with a powerful effort, and still retaining that mysterious, dreamy aura that surrounds her vocalization. Also she’s got Robin Guthrie and Zoe Keating doing some vocals along with her on some of these songs.
This album works just great for those days when you need something to keep up with your agitated lifestyle, and will work as well when you are looking for an excuse to enjoy some rock tunes without losing the glamour if someone surprises you listening to much less elaborated and thousands of times less interesting music. I will go further and will recommend this album as an entry gate for those coming from rock and alternative rock backgrounds looking for new and exciting bands and genres. You will feel warm with this.