Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halfset – Another Way of Being There

Three years on from their debut album Dramanalog, Dublin-based Halfset re-emerge with their long-awaited second album, Another Way of Being There. In many ways, it has been a metamorphosis of sorts and not just down to the evolving line-up. Three became four with one departure and the arrival of Cillian McDonnell (drums) and Sinéad Nic Gearailt (harp & rhodes), apart from offering fresh legs, it signposted a new direction.

Another Way of Being There discards the memorable samples and constructed loops that littered Dramanalog, relying completely on the sound this foursome makes when they get into a room together. Gone are the samples and found sounds and instead there is a sense of taking a musical line for a walk; of democratic improv; of starting with a structure but allowing it room to expand and compress. The genesis comes from an electronic framework kicked off by Stephen Shannon, from here Jeff Martin, Cillian McDonnell and Sinéad Nic Gearailt offer their own layers and interpretations, often guiding the songs in a different direction. It couldn’t be further from what Dramanalog offered.

The bulk of the record was written in a small cottage in Co. Leitrim, then recorded and produced over three years by Stephen Shannon at his Experimental Audio Studio in Dublin (Stephen is a most sought after producer, having worked on releases for Cap Pas Cap, Adrian Crowley and Crayonsmith among others). Crafted and re-drafted, Another Way of Being There is an album heaving with melody, awash with layers and multiple tones. You frequently notice a dialogue between instruments, as on ‘Work’ where guitars talk to drums who want answers from the Rhodes piano. It’s a see-saw of sound. The synth bass at play can also be found on what is certainly the album’s standout track - ‘Salmon’. Cello, viola and violin paint a sleepy, sunset vibe played by Marja Tuhkanen and Kevin Murphy. D.H. Skogen of US band Cougar guests on ‘Desire Lines’. His percussion is a subtle foil to the whirl of vibraphones, moog and cello stabs near the end. Musically, it’s the song that tells the biggest story, with a narrative all of its own. Closer ‘Adrift’ is the real surprise, it’s a beautiful haze of sound that casts a lasting spell, and is a fitting bookend to a sublime and compositionally-taut album.

With four very different musicians working together it’s often difficult to pin down a collective mood on the record but there is an overwhelming sense of hope about these 10 songs. Another Way of Being There places originality at the centre of Halfset’s musical agenda. It takes the tentative steps of Dramanalog and turns them into epic strides.

Accompanying the CD release of Another Way of Being There is a bonus DVD featuring a number of live performances and 10 visual pieces to accompany each album track. These visuals also serve as the backdrop to Halfset’s live shows.

Another Way Being There is released on 3rd October 2008 on Casino Gravity [CG07]

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