In 1999 I was working at KCMU in the old UW Communications building. Every week I had a total of 18 hours on the air. Late night hours. I called the show “Time Travel”, it had a theme where I was the “pilot” and would take you to different places and times with different artists: Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground – London 1967, Howlin Wolf – Chicago 1952, Bauhaus- Live in Los Angeles 1998.
5 hours is a long shift at night. So I would make it pass by pulling big chunks out of the library, and taking a taste of each one. At one point I went alphabetically thru the rock section. But I gave up after the C’s. So I pulled random chunks out of random libraries.
One day I pulled a record out of the “experimental” section. That’s where all the electronic music lived before it was given it’s own part of the library in the early 2000’s. One of the records was by a San Francisco Band Halou. John Richards had reviewed it, and his note said “I’m all about #10″. #10, the song “I’ll Carry You” was incredible. It sampled a woman’s voice and somehow was layered with beats in a way that was thick, warm, lush.
The year 2000 was also the year that I began to appreciate Portishead. I joined a trip hop band and started singing with them. The drummer, Shelley, and I spent hours listening to Portishead, Thievery Corporation, Massive Attack, St. Germain, Halou and (most of all) Morcheeba.
Those bands still mean a lot to me. I love all other genres too: hip hop, alt-rock, classical, jazz, soul, funk, roots, dub, dance, and more, but trip-hop is still my home.
Halou came to town many times over the years. I was lucky enuf to MC a few times, was always a bit nervous. Every show was a cinematic hit of art. The songs have a lot of rush (by this I mean catharsis, where the music lifts and drops and hits you). And Rebecca is a subtly dramatic vocalist. The band behind her is quiet then explosive. She reigns the stage. The band has movies too to add to the cinematic sound. And the movies show over them and above them, incorporating words from the vocals…
Their album Wiser came out in 2001 with some drum-n-bass and rock woven into the mix. It had some beautiful songs on it. Again I went to the shows. Again I was taken in. Risen. Dropped. Taken over by this band.
But it is only now that I have what I really wanted from Halou… I never knew what it was till it got here. 2006’s Wholeness and Separation is what I wanted. It is an album that works like a movie. It is close. Intimate.
I spent last weekend’s waking afternoons looking out the window at the white sky and dripping leaves, listening to the new Halou record.
I’ve always been a fan, but this is the best album yet. The reverence and wisdom in Rebecca’s sad, soaring voice, the drops and catches of the rhythms and loops, the orchestration, it’s all breathtaking.
Gorgeous. Lush. Real.
Halou are playing at Chop Suey tonight. I hope you can go see them. I’m on the air and can’t go. They start their set around 10 or so.
I’ll be playing them near the start of my show “Nite Life” tonight (That’s round 9pm) so you can get a taste of them.
If you’re still new to trip-hop, here are my favorite all time albums of that genre:
Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust (great lyrics, Skye Edwards on vox, philosophical, this album always brings me perspective)
Thievery Corporation – Richest Man in Babylon (5 different vocalists, intimate, dubby, psychedelic, warm, socially conscious. This album feels like family)
(various artists) – Recline (a compilation by Six Degrees – sexy, relaxing, lush)
Halou – Wholeness and Separation (gorgeous, intimate, sad, reverent, smart)
Boards of Canada – Campfire Headphase (calming, organic)
(various artists) – Verve Remixed, Volume 1 (a comp by Verve where great jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday are mixed by today’s trip hop programmer/producers! The first volume works best as an album)
Enjoy the show with Halou tonight! If you don’t go, maybe I’ll see you on the radio. Best…DJ Michele Myers