HÆLOS’ exceptional cover of The Beloved’s 1989 classic “The Sun Rising” was one of 2015’s best musical moments. The London trio’s interpretation of the heady alt-dance classic conversely used somber vocals, cracking breakbeats and harrowing sirens to transcend the song’s original tenet, accomplishing the Herculean task of embellishing the sublime original and hinting at a singular aesthetic. HÆLOS provided a deeper glimpse into their ethos on the Earth Not Above EP, an introspective and enthralling four-song effort. Musically, it referenced Bristol trip-hop and downtempo — a common thread woven into the fabric of their sound — but presented a blueprint of a prodigious sound all their own.
The triumvirate’s meteoric ascent brings them to their full-length debut, Full Circle, a compelling, often heart-wrenching exploration of life and love. While electronic music typically pays short shrift to lyrics and emotions beyond happiness and lust, HÆLOS sketch wrenching vignettes and wear their heart on their sleeves.
It’s only fitting that opening track “Intro/Spectrum” uses an excerpt from a talk by the late great philosopher Alan Watts to put forward their mission statement (“We know that from time to time there arise among human beings, people who seem to excude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat….”). With its cosmic romanticism the head-nodder “Dust” is particularly emotive (“I can’t feel enough / To kill this wasted love”) and satisfying. On “Alone” their protagonists embrace plaintive optimism (“I won’t lie to you because I know what love is / And that’s why ours is good”) over a slow boil of boom-bap, euphoric pads and shimmering guitar melodies. HÆLOS’ self-introspection isn’t all gloomy as evidenced on the anthemic “Pray” (“When all the hope fades around / raise your soul from dusty ground”) which sounds rife with optimism. While sad songs say so much on Full Circle, the threesome let it all hang out on “Oracle,” where they take a left turn into the pulsating beat of the night club and dance like nobody’s watching.
Full Circle is an evocative statement by a band who, like so many of us, are looking to become more comfortable in their own skin. Drawing from the past and within to inform the present, they’ve managed to produce a debut album that’s as cathartic as it is iconic.