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Halo Halo - Halo Halo

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 15 / 8 / 2013

Halo Halo - Halo Halo
Label: Upset The Rhythm
Format: CD


Off-kilter and unique debut album from London-based trio Halo Halo, which is partially sung in Filipino and fronted by electric banjo-player Rachel Horwood

The mainstream has become a tedious place to be. Reunions abound, desperate for cash, while large-scale concerts charge absurd amounts of money, only to have phalanxes of thuggish security and only one brand of beer on tap. There’s an alternative, though. Halo Halo are part of an exciting wave of bands to have emerged in the London DIY scene over the last few years, centred around the venue Powerlunches in East London, promoters/label Upset The Rhythm, the record label Night School Records, and assorted staunchly independent spaces dotted around the capital. All share a DIY aesthetic, and many of the bands – including Trash Kit, Shopping, Ravioli Me Away, the Pheromoans, Peepholes, and other – share members. While these bands diverge in their sounds, they all share a similar aesthetic to shunning the mainstream network of venues, instead preferring unconventional places to play, from industrial spaces to railway arches. While some utilise the traditional vox-guitar-bass-drums setup, others, such as Ravioli Me Away, eschew rhythm guitars together, favouring bass, drums and keyboard. Named after a multi-coloured Filipino pudding, Halo Halo are the most intriguing and interesting of all, preferring a handpicked electric banjo to a ‘normal’ guitar, backed up by bass, drums, Moog keyboards, and lots of un-rock like chanting. The resulting sound at times feels like the Raincoats’ ‘Oddyshape’, but less shambolic: Halo Halo can actually play their instruments well. What they do share with that fascinating album, and which was a key theme in post-punk in the early 80s, was an interest in music beyond the simple tropes of a rock trio, instead reaching out to music beyond the Western world. The chanting and banjo playing by Rachel Horwood (also of Trash Kit) feels like it has elements of African sinawi music, particularly in its picked, reverbed-up quality and droning open tuning, while ‘Problema’ has someone – I’m assuming Horwood – singing in what sounds like Filipino or another South-Eastern Asian language. Meanwhile, the mid-tempo ‘Taro Taro Taro’, with its call and response between Horwood and drummer Jack Barraclough, and its mystical lyrics about time travellers and being under the sea, sounds like very little else out there, but works brilliantly. ‘Want 2 B’, with its pounding drums and gurgling Moog, should be a hit on the indie-dance floors if there was any justice, while ‘Eagle’ surrounds itself with a dense wall of drones before letting rip at full speed. This is music that you can appreciate both at home and get sweaty to at a gig. Its Halo Halo’s dynamism that makes them so fascinating: for a trio they have more ideas and talent here than many have in a music career. Their debut feels genuinely exciting and alive to possibilities. In the current conservative climate, though, whether anyone will actually listen to them is another matter. Instead, mediocrity elsewhere will get elevated to a larger audience who really should know better.

Track Listing:-
1 Djeddjehutyiuefankh
2 Taro Taro Taro
3 Eagle
4 Comet
5 Want 2 B
6 Is It Shiny?
7 Mata Mata
8 Sunshine Kim
9 Wooden Box
10 Problema
11 Coming Home
12 Hey Yeah

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