There are two ways to consider Halo Halo’s name as a reflection of their music. On the one hand, it has the playful let’s-do-it-twice sense of exuberant excess which you might expect of tracks with names like ‘Djeddjehutyiuefankh’ and ‘Hey! Yeah!’. These are songs of often wordless chants, brimming with wide eyed joy; spunky little call and response riffs cutting across spongy grooves, played with a vibrant sense of performance. But looked at another way, however, the name also highlights the band’s overreliance on repetition – an approach which few of the musical ideas and arrangements really justify, leaving a lot of these songs feeling overlong and undercooked in spite of their commendably childlike aplomb.
At its best, Halo Halo evokes the earnest exuberance of records like Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs – the feeling of a band drawing their creativity from the act of collaborative performance, using their sounds to create a primal tribute to energy and excitement. ‘Want 2 B’ is the best example of this, where the band demonstrates the wisdom to know that, even though their sound sounds gorgeously live, collaborative and spontaneous, there’s no real need to tie themselves to organic arrangements in order for this to be successfully achieved. Littered with weird vocal filters, stabs of electronics, ramshackle harmonies and sudden tempo shifts, it’s an album highlight by virtue of letting itself chase every whimsical intuition down a hall of mirrors, and sounding all the more alive for it.
Far too frequently however, this sometimes-thrilling sense of perpetually playing within the outside fringes of their own ability only makes Halo Halo sound like they’re putting an arm out of socket to reach some frankly pedestrian material. Songs like ‘Taro Taro Taro’ spread a lukewarm idea (in this case, little more than a throwaway scale in a constant loop) far too thinly, while songs like ‘Comet’ completely limp across their running time, moving through its motifs with far too little energy.
The odd result is a record which, for all the snap and zip of its basic conceits, becomes quite bloated by its halfway mark. It gets to the point that incredibly small details in cuts from the second half of the record – such as the simple addition of new percussive sounds in ‘Sunshine Kim’ – make a for truly disproportionate impact, breaking the increasingly uninspiring cycle of locked grooves and repetitive licks. This capacity for the songs to surprise themselves diminishes as the record unfolds, and with it dissolves the ability to truly delight the listener. ‘Want 2 B’ is evidence of true potential, but it’s potential which largely remains untapped, or diluted through misguided commitment to repetition of the album’s most two dimensional ideas.
5Russell Warfield's Score