The Star-Crossed Sounds of HÆLOS


“It’s past everyone’s bedtime, yeah?” Arthur Delaney’s question was probably only a half joke, as it wasn’t until 11:30 that HÆLOS took the stage at Rickshaw Stop on the eve of their Outside Lands appearance. There was a smattering of hoots and cheers when Arthur’s vocal counterpoint Lotti Bernardout asked if anyone had been at the festival earlier in the day. You have to admire the endurance of those individuals who after a full day of braving the elements in Golden Gate Park found the motivation to head to a late set. That said, the late hour, the fog machine atmosphere, and the moody yet danceable vibes provided the perfect backdrop for a comedown after the days festivities.

HÆLOS have that comedown in their DNA. Their music calls to mind a host of stylistic predecessors and contemporaries (Portishead, Massive Attack, and the xx to name a few), yet their individual identity cuts through, and protects them from being labeled as derivative. The genre they have dubbed “Dark Euphoria” simultaneously produces an agonizing tenderness and irresistible rhythm. The interwoven somber moods and euphoric beats result in a cinematic quality. Images of unrequited love, or an embrace between star-crossed lovers destined for tragedy permeate the air around HÆLOS.

HÆLOS live performance was introduced by same spoken word sample that appears on the bands full-length debut Full Circle. The sample features audio of philosopher Alan Watts speaking about the “Spectrum of love” in which he states, “We know that from time to time there arise among human beings people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat. We would like to be like that…” The quote serves as a type of aesthetic manifesto for Dark Euphoria, as it states intent while pointing to a perceived deficiency. With the scene set by this introduction the band eased into a showcase of tracks from their first major release.

To reproduce the mood and layered quality found on Full Circle the core trio of HÆLOS (Delaney, Bernardout and Dom Goldsmith) brought two drummers and a guitarist on the road. The set was polished, and the band’s ability to replicate the rich textures and harmonies from the record was uncanny. The additional decibel levels provided at the concert downplayed the subdued nature of the tracks and emphasized the club rhythms which reside at their core. This effect was most apparent in the set’s closing one-two punch of “Earth Not Above” and “Oracle” which had the crowd ready for more.

Yet like the romance of the star-crossed lovers in our imagination, the moments of ecstasy were destined to be cut short. Having played nearly all of the tracks from their debut album, the show came to an end. The band would be due on stage again in a little more than 12 hours in Golden Gate Park. While the weekend’s persistent fog may have put a damper on summer festival mood at times, it was probably a good fit as far as HÆLOS was concerned.

Photos by Nate Chavez