Good lord this is wonderful and unexpected thing. I am indebted to Music Fan Mic whose review brought it to my attention, which in turn came to me via a retweet from the wonderful Her Name is Calla. There is a connection here; both Halves and HNIC have some of the same traits running through them – music that is the be savoured, that takes time to reveal itself, music made with a profound integrity and honesty (stop me if I am getting a bit precious )
There is an overwhelming sense of the monumental with a beautiful melancholia running through the whole of the Halves set, making it especially appropriate for the dank autumnal season of fallen leaves and the heralded winter. The combinations of strings and brass together with more usual band instruments and a little laptop noodling builds layers of sounds, a depth and complexity to be explored and discovered and revealed little by little.
Blood Branches has been released previously and makes a welcome early appearance here. Darling, You’ll Meet Your Maker has a fragility, in particular thanks to the vocal delivery, that renders it sad and wistful. Growing & Glory is almost joyful by comparison, with its Spanish hand claps in the back of the mix , the additional vocals from Amy Millan who also can be found on Stars and Broken Social Scene outputs, helps build the track towards its comparative release of the last minute or so. I quickly built a strong affection for the Littlest Octoberist with its occasional vocoderish voice treatments, harp and underpinning string arrangement leading again to a final minute or so lift off (relatively speaking!) from the core band. The album feels like it was conceived as a whole (which perhaps it wasn’t), shifting gently and inevitably from one track to the next, building inexorably towards the albums closing track, Mountain Bell.
How refreshing to have band from Ireland producing such emotional and affecting music, a million miles from the now wretched U2 or other stereotypical Irish malarkey. I find reflections, albeit through a different prism and of a quieter mien, of the splendid Her Name is Calla (the piano, strings, brass and the care of composition) and equally the much under-rated Undertheigloo (the way the voice is slightly buried, the way the thematic delivery is achieved) and the emotional effect that both these other bands also create. It would be fascinating to see how the band carries this off live, if thisisfakediy are to believed then carry it off they do… hows about a couple of shows this side of the Irish sea then chaps?
This is an exceptionally beautiful album of emotion and intelligence, one of those albums for private moments, for locating in that special place of personal treasures and pleasures. Turn the lights down, wrap up in a blanket by the fire, deny the rest of the world and immerse yourself… sublime.
Pic taken by James Goulden, The Sugar Club opening for The Middle East. June 2010