Album Review: Halves – Boa Howl

Dublin trio Halves are an interesting band. Weaving together ambient, electronic, alt-rock and post-rock elements, their second album Boa Howl is perhaps better described as a sequence of soundscapes than an 11 track LP.

The first track, titled ‘Drumhunter’, is organic and promising. Ghostly vocals, multiple modified guitar sequences and a frenetic, syncopated rhythm section chase one another like crests of water in a stream, lifting the listener and pulling them along with the flow. This driving, alt-rock propelled momentum dominates the album even in its quieter tracks, where it lies in the background as a gentle emotional intensity.

As we progress towards the centre of the album the tracks become more experimental and musically diverse. The fifth track, ‘Best Summer’, stands out for me as the pinnacle of what Halves are trying to achieve. It’s an experience in itself, and one I have revisited many times. I find myself drawing parallels to several other musicians- first to Teebs and Shlohmo, then to CocoRosie as Amy Millan’s vocals come in, then something comparable to a blend of Foals and Broken Social Scene as spiralling guitars play alongside a repeating synth melody.

‘White Boa Howl’ is a Bibio-esque lo-fi mix of fuzzy vocals, folky guitar and thrumming strings. From here on in the album gets a little darker, and track by track grows in intensity. The next few songs feature distorted cellos, bass riffs and a more straightforward alternative rock formula. Things get pretty heavy in ‘Hug The Blood’ and ‘Bring Your Bad Luck’ which are both more on the post-rock side of the spectrum. Listeners unused to the genre may find a little respite on the penultimate track ‘Polynia’ which takes a lighter and more electronic approach but the final track, ‘Let Them Come In’ plunges our journey back into dark and epic waters.

I can’t say it’s not like anything I’ve ever heard before. My mind picks out Beach House, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Broken Social Scene and Foals. However, I still feel as though I’m listening to something new and exciting, and I can’t help but be impressed by the seamless orchestration of so many different instruments, beats and ideas- all of which were recorded live. I think perhaps the album loses track of its experimentation halfway through, and were it not for occasional moments of innovation in the the final three tracks what we’d be left with would essentially be post-rock and little else.

Overall, Boa Howl is a truly beautiful album created by three incredibly accomplished musicians. It’s refreshing to listen to something which achieves everything it seeks to do and gives the listener so much in terms of variety, technique and emotion. Cinematic and immersive, it’s more of an experience than a straightforward listen. Put your headphones on, close your eyes, open your ears and become a part of this wonderful record.

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