For years Halou rejected the trip hop label to their music, instead they preferred to be considered a dream pop act. To be honest, I never cared for the difference between such genres, primarily because Halou is the only band I know related to dream pop, and for the careless listener the difference is sometimes so subtle that it is somewhat difficult to tell them appart. But the day would come, and I would suddenly realize where that difference lies.
I’m borrowing this from the Wikipedia entry for dream pop, because I’m nowhere near to describe it in a proper way:
… post-punk and ethereal experiments with bittersweet pop melodies into dreamy, sometimes sensual and feminine soundscapes.
And it is that part about sensual and femenine soundscapes that usually confuse us, because you see, that is something that dominates Wholeness & Separation from start to finish. Rebecca Coseboom’s sensuous, nearly whispering voice might be a little tricky to become used to, but once you overcome the adaptation process, it is an absolute delight. Even in those experimental post-punk, alternative rock driven songs when her voice raises to a more powerful and higher pitch, it never loses direction and keeps feeling just like a more energetic version of the more dreamy and sensuous part of the album.
Wholeness & Separation was born originally as two different EPs, Wholeness (2003) and Separation (2006), and if we are lazy we could just say that this was just a copy & paste into a full length album. But there’s more to this than just putting two EPs together and releasing them as one full featured album, as there are substantial changes to many of the original songs contained in those EPs, and also there are new songs not featured in either of them. In top of that, there’s more Wholeness songs here than Separation ones, despite the latter being the more recent.
But more important than where the songs came from, is the fact that it is a little bit difficult to describe properly what this album is about. I already mentioned the conflict between the common assumption that this is a trip hop album and the band rejection of the label, although the truth is that whether the band likes it or not, there is a lot of trip hop involved in many songs (Ratio of Freckles to Stars and Things Stay the Same just to name a few), and the funny thing is that those are not poor attempts at it, they are actually brilliant trip hop influenced songs. Trip hop aside though, the dream pop parts of this album are even better, the fusion of alternative rock with the sensous and whispering female voice counterpart provided by Coseboom is a hell of a deal.
14 songs in total, I’m not exagerating when I say that it feels like they were just 7. It is an engaging experience, mostly because all the strings are pulled at the right moments and with that avoiding any dull situation, or the mere sensation that things are falling into an impasse.
In the end, this is a highly recommended album for anyone who enjoys trip hop, female vocalists or alternative rock. Keep in mind that such elements are not always separated, so you might find yourself with a combination of those.