Personnel: Daniel Vildósola, Martin Rooney, Bo Morgan (guitar, drums, percussion); Alan Watts (sampler).
Audio Mixers: Orlando Leopard; Hælos.
Photographer: Joe Armitage.
The debut full-length from London's Haelos is an emotive journey through the planes of love, faith, and faith in love. Recalling the mood of classic '90s trip-hop and electronica with updated precision, Full Circle floods the senses with atmospheric texture and expansive soundscapes. The male-female vocal interplay of Lotti Benardout and Arthur Delaney is reminiscent of the xx, albeit much warmer, while Dom Goldsmith's production harkens back to Portishead, Massive Attack, and Moby. The cycle of love -- including the back and forth and the ups and downs -- is the common theme here, with the trio imparting a euphoric quality to it all. Full Circle begins with a sample of philosopher Alan Watts' "The Spectrum of Love" before connecting to de facto opener "Pray," both a plea and a warning to "raise your soul" and "pray you don't fall down." The quiet raves of "Pray" and "Oracle" recall Play-era Moby, with the latter combining the angelic beauty of "My Weakness" and the powerful hypnotic trance of early Dido. "Earth Not Above" merges a dramatic Massive Attack wash with a sample of James Brown's "Funky Drummer" beat, while "Dust" lays more of a Massive Attack mood onto a thumping Portishead drone. Holding strong to the album's title, Delaney sings "what goes round/comes back around" as Benardout laments "this love ain't mine." Throughout the album's journey, there is a sense of persistent desperation for love lost, but hope is restored with reminders that love comes back again (as on the title track). The moments of frustration and pain evidenced in the lyrics tend to be forgiven by the gorgeous sonics, which can be uplifting and comforting, like floating in space or on a cloud. The closing moments of the album include some ominous ones, yet even the darkest track -- the droning "Sacred" -- is a petition for love to return to the loveless. The sad, slow-burning "Cloud Nine" suffocates with a crushing sadness, comparing the dissolution of a relationship to the "heavens dissolving" and the "universe unfolding." It's a heartbreaker. Full Circle finishes with "Pale," an explosive closer that brings the emotional journey to an end with stabbing rave synths, crashing drums, siren blares, and an overall aura of doom. What began with hope and reassurance ends with darkness and uncertainty. However, despite the loss of faith and the world crashing down, the band declares "here I'm alive" and the cycle begins anew. ~ Neil Z. Yeung