Halves are a post-rock band from Dublin, Ireland. They have been making music for a few years, and have finally released their first full-length record. Apparently they recorded this record at Hotel2Tango, which the post-rock fans among you might know as the home of Godspeed You Black Emperor. This record is very GYBE-like, except that it is also kind of electronic. Halves take the classical strain of post-rock that GYBE championed and feed it through a laptop, modifying and distorting the sounds. It is a blending of GYBE and Port-Royal, two of my favorite bands. Naturally, i adore this album.
Halves feature guitars, drums, voices, strings, piano, laptops, and horns. Pretty much the entire music spectrum, and it is kind of amazing that there are only four of them. They have composed a wonderfully inventive record. Normally in these reviews i go over the songs. Well, in this case, the band have already done that for me! No, seriously. On Ragged Words the band wrote a blurb about each tune. Their comments are more about how the song came to be, and less a description of the music. So, gentle reader, here is my companion to the band's piece, a more descriptive discussion of each song.
Land/Sea/People kicks the record off with a slow start, a drone that gradually fades in. A gently picked guitar wanders by, accompanied by a faint electro rumble and a hushed voice. The electronics chime and grow, until suddenly drums and horns appear and the song sort of rocks its way towards a satisfying conclusion.
The music fades back out for Blood Branches, which starts with slow strings, before drums, an accordion (or something similar), and piano join. This reminds me of the darker moments on Hood's Cold House, that sort of melancholy British Isles feel.
Darling, You'll Meet Your Maker features the same general instrumentation, but instead reminds me of Songs:Ohia, which i suppose makes this more of a Midwestern melancholy. There are vocals here, a quiet understated singing alongside some clattering noise (samples of someone rummaging around in a bunch of boxes or something), sawing strings, and piano. It's kind of eerie, yet lovely, with a stunning sawed cello bit. Eventually, several voices harmonize over a keyboard drone and a steady tapping IDM beat. Lovely.
There is a female voice added to the mix on Growing & Glow. Apparently this is Amy Millan from Stars and Broken Social Scene, who was loitering around Hotel2Tango and didn't look busy enough, i suppose. Her voice is a nice addition to the sound, which here consists largely of a nice stomped rhythm and some light keys. This is a really beautiful song of strings and voices.
On The Little Octoberist the voice is fed through an effect to make it sound computerized. The beat is a skipping IDM tap, coupled with piano and sparse guitar and ... is that a banjo? It grows until the drums explode and the guitars chord really fast in a way that reminds me of Explosions in the Sky. It is a fierce and noisy end to the song.
A fuzzy beat skips alongside chiming keys in Only Safe Landings, but this song is really made by the happy melody that trills along, making the song bouncy and cheery. Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy is another melancholy tune made out of delicate layers of voice, strings, and piano, much like Darling, You'll Meet Your Maker. It ends with a really lovely strings and light piano moment.
Halves rock out on The Wellwisher. Well, kinda. This song features more drumming than the previous few, but it is paired with a delicate blend of guitar arpeggios, simmering keys, and light horns. It has a faster pace than the previous few songs, but ends with the various voices harmonizing to the horns and piano. This end piece sounds almost Sigur Ros-like.
I Raise Bearss brings in some IDM bleeping to the martial drumming and layers of voice. The song builds to a mighty drone at the end. Halves channel Talk Talk on Don't Send Your Kids To The Lakes, where a piano tinkles along some strings. I keep expecting Mark Hollis's delicate baritone to warble by during this utterly lovely tune. At two and a half minutes, it is not long enough.
And finally Halves wrap things up with Mountain Bell, where they channel Radiohead. The voice here is positively Thom Yorke, and the drumming is a dull thud accompanied by burbling electronics. However, the song builds with a flurry of intense guitar and drumming in a very Godspeed manner, until at the end it explodes. I can almost see them, on stage, in the dark, hammering away at their instruments as they play this at tremendous volume. I bet it is great live.
And the album ends there, seemingly over too soon. I want to listen to it on repeat, it is that good. This is the best post-rock record that i have heard in a while. It seamlessly blends the noise of Godspeed with the delicacy of Sigur Ros with the electronic elements of Port-Royal. It is a heady mix, and i think that Halves manage to pull it off quite nicely. Be on the lookout for this band, from whom i predict great things.