Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“A rippling lake / The faces that taunt me / Keep guiding my way / What happened to us?” That’s a line from the song “Dust” by the London synth band HÆLOS, an ethereal and hallucinatory fissure. In this universe, it’s all caps, all of the time. What started as a synth rock trio putting together some bedroom beats suddenly grew to become a Matador Records artist with a massive following, mostly thanks to this single.
HÆLOS' debut LP, Full Circle, brings to mind the heyday of trip-hop and British electronic explosion. All of the genre’s biggest characteristics are here—ethereal vocals, muted breakbeats, swelling keyboards, and the occasional reverberating guitar. But Full Circle resolutely repurposes almost every aspect of ’90s trip-hop at no loss to its integrity or listenability.
The debut full-length from London's Haelos is an emotive journey through the planes of love, faith, and faith in love. Recalling the mood of classic '90s trip-hop and electronica with updated precision, Full Circle floods the senses with atmospheric texture and expansive soundscapes. The male-female vocal interplay of Lotti Benardout and Arthur Delaney is reminiscent of the xx, albeit much warmer, while Dom Goldsmith's production harkens back to Portishead, Massive Attack, and Moby.
As with any era of music, it’s inevitably only a matter of time before the next generation pays homage by reinterpreting its defining sounds for a new audience. We’ve seen a surfeit of ’80s influenced electro-pop in recent years but increasingly, the sonic trends of the 1990s are re-emerging. Britpop may have gained the most headlines and the heftiest record sales, but there’s a strong argument that trip-hop, that peculiarly Bristolian genre of reggae, dub and soul influenced slow burning ‘dance’ music that first announced itself with Massive Attack’s classic Blue Lines album in 1991, is the UK’s most enduring musical legacy of the decade.
Full Circle, the debut album from London-based trio, HÆLOS, is a lake at nighttime—you have no way of knowing how deep it is until you wade in. Once you plunge beneath the warm water's surface, you realize this is a world you have rarely experienced before. Collectively, Lotti Benardout, Arthur Delaney, and Dom Goldsmith, all of whom share vocals throughout the album, craft a therapeutic, introspective, absorbing 50 minutes of music intended to be shared among one's closest friends and significant others.
Cultivated by names like DJ Shadow, Tricky, and Nellee Hooper, the formative years of trip-hop were defined by the moody atmospherics of its associated artists and collectives like The Wild Bunch. The genre’s appeal extended fully in 1991 with the release of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, a zenith of sorts for artists and listeners who preferred their dance music with an extra helping of melancholy. In the years of hyphenated descriptions since, trip-hop’s influence has found its way into a wide array of genres, from underground metal acts like Ulver to more pop-oriented artists like FKA twigs.
HÆLOS are a band whose influences are numerous and clear to see. The challenge of being an alt-indie band is to carve a niche where these influences are nods and winks rather than pastiche. On Full Circle, HÆLOS manage to do both leading to some inspired moments and others which lack precisely that required inspiration. The press release accompanying Full Circle describes HÆLOS as finding their blues on the dancefloor and 'introspective comedowns that accompany rainy 5am cab rides' - it's not a new aesthetic but it's one that works as The xx and Burial will testify to.
HÆLOS’ space obsession exists for a reason. The East London trio’s form of escapism doesn’t belong on this planet. Guitars rooted in funk but flipped upside down are given space, while Lotti Benardout’s vocals - always on the brink of lift-off - avoid gravity at all costs. Dragged by a lunar pull, debut album ‘Full Circle’ waves farewell to Earth from the moment it starts.
New British experimental rock threesome Haelos' debut album, Full Circle, is loaded with synths and heavily influenced by '90s trip-hop group Portishead. Their EP, Earth Not Above, was released in 2015 and met with praise (some of the songs appear on Full Circle), although Haelos have yet to establish a sound of their own on their latest release. Full Circle starts out strong, opening with a cinematic intro that features Alan Watts' speech "The Spectrum of Love.
HÆLOS — Full Circle (Matador)Photo by Dave MaThere’s a definite 1990s vibe to HÆLOS’ shuffling grooves. Ramshackle friction-y beats undergird nocturnal murk a la vintage Massive Attack, while bright shafts of ecstasy pierce the gloom in a way that reminds me of nothing so much as Moby’s “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” from Play. You can draw connections to more recent artists, the XX for the way that fragile, murmurous vocals take cover in downtempo constructions of abstract rhythm or to Washed Out for the manner in which repeated fragments of melody take flight.
It's that time again when writers Juan and Carl go through their previous month's custom playlists in search of a handful of albums that deserve your attention. After being a bit tough with some of last month's notable electronic offerings, it's curious to see that Juan's two highest scores out of ….
HÆLOS dubbed their trademark sound “dark euphoria”, an incredibly succinct title for the group’s soulful noir electro pop output. But the problem with inventing a genre is that it can confine you, and while Full Circle is a technically proficient, meticulously crafted record, it could have benefited from a bit more sonic variety. Full Circle kicks off with a bang, as “Pray” operates at a faster pace than much of what comes after.