Of Time And Tides
What if you took a supple, versatile drummer, a lofty bassist with a cool line in subterranean bottom-of-the neck riffs and nimble top-strings fusion figures and added an alluring female vocalist with a crisp keyboard style and lyrical inspiration running far beyond romantic odes? Well THIS is what you would get – The Hallows.
Don’t be put off by the proggy album title and some track titles like Hourglass and Euphoria, these coves don’t have their heads in the clouds or fox-heads for their stage shows…directed at this act by one of our sage pr contacts, The Hallows turned out to be an intriguing and moreover exciting live performing troupe, all working hard and however strong their musicianship never far from the next melodic twist. Sarah Rodriguez brings a lot of intrigue and sensuality into her delivery but having spent time in her company, she is no spotlight-seeker, just a talented singer and player.
This album takes the listener on a bit of a trip through tempo’s and moods and I sense it will stand up to repeated play because of the strength of the material, in the main. The recording, mixing and production by Seb Pecchia presents all the songs with a touch of 3-D, with every nuance given subtle clarity and dynamic placement. So what are the actual songs like?
Opening cut Element gives us a taste of the silky string arrangements used against the muscle of the group throughout the collection. I say against in a complementary way, as part of the sonic melee. The piano and bass intro gives way to a dreamy vocal. Sarah takes – ahem- elements of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Suzanne Vega to forge her own beguiling style. Schooled to a high degree, she doesn’t get keys wrong or phrasing fuzzy. The words are clear and against the depth of the musical backdrop this ices the cake. Joe’s drumming means he plays nothing one moment then tons a few bars later, so given Dave Pugh’s bass runs and swoops a lot falls upon his shoulders.
Cardboard Love has a catchy melody and neat construction and a hint of the moody shadows conjured up in Portishead’s better achievements. I have to prevent myself from picking up the six-string and playing along with John Barry amp tremelo during this song! A surefire stage favourite. Hourglass is looking for a dramatic film to score. Lovely electric piano, hihat tapping and cavalier bass give a heady mix on this spooky song. On Turn This Tide, the group uses a slightly unsettling edgy tempo to create an air of urgency. Once more the melody wins out, staving off the risk of sonic ice.
Hideaway is not the Freddie King standard – though I bet they could play that! A very Bush-esque piano intro and a gorgeous lilting bassline. Conjures up a misty wood and swaying flowers..blimey are The Hallows turning this hard-heart rocker into Shelley?!
Stay has a solemn, almost hymnal intro and reminds me of Catherine Howe. Sarah sings it straight. It’s a bit Radio 2 Sunday morning for me, but why not? Angel uses light-touch acoustic guitar for its start and those beautiful strings pour down like drizzle over the spirited but kept-in-check vocal. This song floats along and is a highlight of the set. At The End commences with a steady but choppy beat and a conspiratorial vocal that draws you in as an ascending bass figure sets the tension. The melody aches, in a wispy way that coos melody.
Euphoria touches that Portishead mood once again but the agitated lyric really hits home, electric poetry and a bit of an earworm. Pugh’s bass pumps this one home. With Bloodlines the ambience is dark and a little scary. More lovely singing.
Icicles uses that waking-from-a dream vibe, again to good effect. Perhaps the best singing here; Little Wildling rides in on a cloud of strings, this one works well live, I can attest, the tune somewhat jaunty once it gets going, firm piano chording and pulsebeat drumming holding all together.
This is rich, lively music from clever people – soaked in melody, the songs rise and fall with a regal touch that somehow avoids pomposity. They DO need a couple of really sunny, upbeat songs for balance, Sarah’s voice could handle that I sense but that is a minor carp about a stunning debut.
(Thanks to The Hallows to the Clever Cat)