UTR057 | CD / LP | 12 tracks, 45 mins | Buy
With this eagerly-awaited, self-titled debut album, Halo Halo have raised their game, delivering not only well written songs with lyrics that won't leave you but also commanding a confidence in their approach matched by their broadening production values.
"Djeddjehutyiuefankh" opens the album, named after an unearthed Egyptian mummy found without a heart. The song strides purposefully forwards with Jack and Rachel's doubled vocals and tripping beats, an ode to another voice in another time, all wrapped up in vocoder.
"Taro Taro Taro" sublimely loses itself in echoes of melody and propulsive rhythms, underscoring the song's subject matter of a time travelling fisherman lost to the waves for 300 years, taken from the early Japanese tale "Urashima Taro".
"Sunshine Kim" is an energetic rattle of cowbell, anchored bass, handclaps and choppy phrasing, with terms like catchy not doing justice. "Want 2 Be" is a riot of pitch-shifting banjo, danced up euphoria and synth-weirding, perfectly set off by Rachel's ever-soaring voice.
There's a proximity to nature and ritual dance music also felt in Halo Halo's music, perhaps best shown with the superb track "Comet". The track's measured pace and serene melody line are underpinned by Rachel's commanding lyric, "Comet, come to me!" trying to harness the impossible, the beyond imagination. "We can ride upon its back, away from roads and cul de sacs," she sings through trailing banjo circles, drum thumps and journey-bound bass lines.
There's a real sense of needing to believe locked in their songs, sometimes transcending lyrics. Songs like "Eagle" and "Is It Shiny?" are almost wordless invocations, where Rachel and Jack are singing themselves into existence, achieving an almost trance-like understanding. Other songs are sung in Tagalog (a major language in the Philippines), such as in "Mata Mata" and the epic six minute "Problema" with it's breathtaking patterns of shifting drums and intricate washes of banjo.
"Hey! Yeah!", named after the sound of a karate kick, closes this brilliant debut album with it's duelling harmonicas and joyous leaping repetition, no words, just an unbridled feeling of escape and hope - very much a lasting sentiment from the record.
The artwork for the album is based around Rachel's colourful, mystical illustrations, which also help to imagine an ancient/future world just waiting behind the next song. With this album, Halo Halo have achieved a lot, they've travelled far and have returned to their beginnings, all with an impeccable melodic hold that time cannot diminish.