Released: 2009, Exile On Mainstream Records
Celan are something of a super group, formed in Berlin in 2008 and consisting of members of Unsane, Einstürzende, Neubauten and Oxbow. The album is being promoted as an experimental side project, and the debut album, HALO, was recorded in two weeks. No doubt many fans will appreciate the spontaneity and diverse sounds present as a result of the members of such different musical backgrounds combining for an album. They might go so far as to call it genius. Still, other peoples’ opinions of the album will be readily apparent as their blank stares of confusion give way to loathe and disgust. Thus is the case with many experimental albums and HALO is certainly no exception.
HALO is a veritable melting pots of sounds, noises, screeches, feedback, reverb drenched vocals, clean vocals, piano, guitar, and bass. Vocalist Chris Spencer uses multiple styles on this album from hardcore yells on “Weigh Tag” to quiet, reverb laced harmony vocals on the verse sections of anti-ballad “Sinking”. Similarly, the music is highly varied, as with the rhythmically complex, Prong-inspired opening to “It’s Low” or the bass driven and doom-laden “All This And Everything”. Perhaps the one track where everything culminates in an experimental triumph is the instrumental closer, “Lunchbox”. So much is going on here, that at first listen I will frankly admit that it sounded like chaotic noise. HALO is an album that grew on me after a few spins, and I was able to hear the different layers in a more song-focused context, but admittedly, this is not for everybody. The prevailing styles are industrial, noise, and a mix of doom, rock, and other styles.
Calling this a great album would be giving HALO too much credit. It defies easy categorization and it deserves praise for pushing the envelope. Certainly it is different, and the musicians from these bands have been able to stretch their creative styles beyond their home bands. Consequently, HALO is primarily an album for the musicians that created it, a type of catharsis for the band members. Others might also flock to this highly varied aural assault, but it is for niche audiences to be sure.