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Hello Halo

Parker And Lily
Hello Halo
(Orange Recordings)

The lights in the already-dark club dim even more, to the point where you have to strain to see your drink sitting in front of you on the table. Through the soft haze of cigarette smoke, you see movement from the stage, then the curled sounds of slide guitar and pedal steel waft while the sounds of old Rhodes and Wurlitzer organs weave their way through it all. This is the scene that Parker and Lily evoke, and they do it well. A small group on a small label that I'd personally never heard of, this duo (and live perfoming quartet) sounds like a strange mix of Mazzy Star, the Tindersticks, and Portishead.

Formerly known as Valentine Six, Parker Noon and Lily Wolf have put together a lo-fi album of downtempo tracks that are so nicely understated that they'll probably slip beneath the radar most places, but that's a shame. Without much of a rhythym to speak of, Hello Halo is the aural equivalent of feeling woozy. Guitars vibrate with so much tremelo that they recall "Sleepwalking" by B.J. Cole, and vocals (both male and female) are so breathy it sounds like the respective singers are short of breath.

If there can be one complaint of the disc, it's that it sounds very similar throughout. The first time that I put the disc in to listen to it, I was a bit distracted and didn't pay attention to how long it was. About 40 minutes after I'd started it, I thought that it sounded great, but checked to see how long the release was. As it turns out, the entire thing had played through once and was a couple songs in again. The disc starts off with "Two Years In The Air" and as stated above, it moves along with some baritone guitar and the warm tones of an old organ of some kind adds some nice atmosphere while lead singer Noon adds his breathy croon. "Mandari" adds some chimy, almost nursery rhyme sounds to the mix (which are repeated in later tracks as well) while tracks like "P.S." slow things down so much you might feel your eyelids flutter.

While the group never really cranks up the volume, there are a couple moments where things pick up a little. "Desert Holiday" keeps the desolate sound of guitars but gives them more of a rich sound, while vocals of Moon sound like they're being sung into a tin can and light organ melodies flutter in the background, making it almost a lovesick cowboy song. Towards the end of the disc, a vibraphone adds yet another dab to their sonic palette, and the untitled closer track feels like the short sequel to Portishead's dark instrumental "To Kill A Dead Man" and might very well be the loudest track on the disc. In the end, I probably would have liked the disc a little better had their been a touch more variety, but it's not a hard arguement since the release is only about 33 minutes long. It might lack the beats that fans of the aforementioned Portishead crave, but it still oozes with that late-night smokey alley feel.

Rating: 7