REVIEW: Halou - "Wiser"

By J 'Hirez' H-R

Chain Border

I'm sure there's a place and an audience for this sort of semi-fey, definitely languid and clearly in-some-debt-to-Portishead style of coffee-table pop. Just as long as it stays quite far away from me.

I can see it now - some artistically lit coffee-house with a stripped-pine floor and stripped-brick walls all decorated in earthy tones so as not to disturb the patrons who become a little more fractious than usual after half-a-dozen espressos. At the back there's a stage about large enough for an experimental jazz trio, as long as they don't get too into the music and start moving about carelessly. The audience themselves are split between the beard-stroking prayer-behatted and earnest young things in black who deeply regret being born far too late to be beatniks. If you're already thinking 'North-western US,' have a gold star - the band themselves are from Seattle. I am neither of these things, unfortunately. Though I do appreciate regular and large mugs of good cappuchino delivered for consumption in convivial circumstances.

This, I suppose, leaves Halou a bit stuffed. While I care for many, many bands - Kraftwerk, Public Enemy, Big Black and the Cocteaus to name the first four to fall out of the top of my head - none of them sound much like Halou. Apart from the tediously obvious comparison with Portishead, of course. Though the thing there is that Portishead got there first and managed to sound like a bunch of scary drunk people pulling apart someone else's record collection. Halou sound like... A set of abstainers showing polite interest in someone's CD-rack, by comparison.

They do seem to be in possession of a set of fine noises. One reminiscent of a chorus of steam-driven robots with kazoos heard from quite a distance, another like the sound of a high wind blowing across a several-mile-tall aerial. Several times there appears a snare that sounds like someone swishing teaspoons round and round in a biscuit tin. It's just entirely unfortunate that I don't get on with fey young women singing impenetrable songs about... Well, it could be anything really. Fantastic sex, invasion of the planet by an army of kazoo-playing steam robots, the repeal of the corn-laws or an in-depth reappraisal of Eric S. Raymond's paper "The cathedral and the bazaar."

There is one track, though, which comes across as Talk Talk and Garbage having a disagreement about who should pay for the wine after a so-so meal in a pretentious restaurant. You get the definite impression that it's about to rock out a bit and everything could turn ugly, but then it finishes quickly and we're back in 'music appropriate for chocolate boxes' territory, which is deeply frustrating.

So. If you like polite Garbage/Portishead/Frazier Chorus/Dream Academy-influenced Music For Coffeetables, then Halou (and Nettwerk…they used to release proper music when I were a lad:. Severed Heads, Skinny Puppy - that sort of thing.) should probably be in receipt of your money. If not, then, um, move along. Nothing To See Here.

Buy The Album
Buy Wiser

Contact Information:
E-Mail: halou@pacbell.net
Web: http://www.halou.com

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