Harmonic – Absorbed – Ethereal – Longing – Otherwordly – Sexy – is what I hope HÆLOS stands for, because those six words describe their debut EP Earth Not Above spot-on. The electro-pop trio has crafted four tracks that glide along a tightrope separating beautifully euphoric and tragically sad moods.
The title track sways with sensual rhythm, careful not to give too much away at the start. “Some of us need kindness,” sing male and female vocalists, their delicious, natural harmony similar to The XX’s, but fuller, more wholesome. The use of drums, like a thumping heart palpitation, creates a beautiful build of suspense as we hang on to every beat. The repeated lyric (“Ohhh, is this what we have become?”) is gripping – you want to know their story.
Things get more atmospheric on “Cloud Nine” where subtle sounds, such as running a fingertip along the wet rim of a wine glass, warp in the background. The silver, sopranic female voice contrasts exquisitely with the warm, golden male voice. The vocals overall are choppy, paralleling the concept of the song. “Why did you leave me here?” – This question they mull over…and over again while a hesitant stop-and-go pace captures vulnerability.
Pensiveness fades into desperation on “Breathe,” where lyrics like “How long will you still hold me? How long will you breathe for me?” are intermingled with techno texturing and sharp, metallic clanging. The pace gradually picks up, as the instrumentation twirls around a tornado of overlapping lyrical questions.
And finally, the tornado comes to a peaceful cessation by the fourth track, “Ethyr.” It starts with a gentle, pulling sound I can only describe as denser than listening to the inside of a seashell–you’re actually standing inside it. The final track is a strange delivery of electronic orchestra. It’s space-like, full of radar-detecting glitch and static sounds, like a TV attempting to pick up a channel. It’s so breathtaking you forget the only vocals are muffled, singing underwater. There’s nothing left to be said. It’s this presence of pure sound that brings us to the serene end of a delicate journey.
What begins as a vibe marked by desperation and constant questioning morphs into graceful acceptance. On Earth Not Above, HÆLOS uses those unsure-of gray areas to create a beautiful landscape and tender atmosphere for contemplation. Next time you’re still awake during those precious hours before sun rise, Earth Not Above could be the perfect sonic soother.–Rachel Haney