Killin The Gæme
Hælos snagged an early piece of glory when they opened for TV On The Radio during the European leg of the Brooklynites’ most recent tour. The London quartet’s brand of minimalist, metropolitan electronica gelled quite nicely with indie rock fan sensibilities, shying away from dub indulgences and the overused drop for more gradual climaxes. This is only one way in which Hælos have their finger on the pulse of all that is hip – they’ve taken every measure so as to appear as cool and humanly possible through more mediums than just recorded sound. Cool fonts adorn the cover of their new EP, Earth Not Above. (That weird latin vowel symbol also used by Tool in Aenima is statistically the coolest letter.) They’ve got a cool social media presence (impeccable choice of Instagram filters), play at the coolest London clubs (XOYO? So cool), and rock a very cool set up (female-fronted electronica band with a drummer? That’s pretty cool). It’s like they’re trying to beat the xx at their own game.
They certainly give Jamie and crew a run for their money on “Breathe,” the EP’s most pared-down track. Hælos sound like they live in that weird moment in the late 90s when Portishead and Lamb were really popular, and that dreamy, blurry production style that was previously allocated to dub and early house started to stray into the realm of rock’n’roll by way of bands like Nine Inch Nails; a combination of really stompy trip hop and a subdued indietronica that gets gradually more dense with held out chords as the song progresses.
Like TVOTR, there’s an ear-catching bit of soul in the churning mix of “Cloud Nine” to prove that Hælos aren’t trying to be completely waifish and sterile. Synth pop influences even come out to play in the EP’s title track, the percussion of which could have been displaced from an early 80s Depeche Mode album. The claustrophobic synth arrangements give away the EP’s modernity without prostrating themselves in total melancholy. “Ethyr” even has a bit of industrial darkness to it. With only a short bit of vocals near the end of the song, the first, instrumental half could be part of the score of a science fiction film.
By its nature as an EP, Earth Not Above doesn’t take up enough space to fall into the repetition that this electronic subgenre is prone to, but it doesn’t have quite enough musical variety to seal the deal as an excellent album. When it comes down to it, though, the shroud Hælos have woven around themselves with this consistent cluster of songs will certainly leave listeners intrigued and primed for a true full-length. Let’s see if they can live up to the hype that they’re working to so hard to gather.