Review Summary: I wonder if they used an effects pedal that sucks all the fun away?
Being a bass player myself, one of my bigger influences comes in the form of Juan Alderete, better known for his exceptional musicianship in Racer X and The Mars Volta. He is a bass player that holds a bottomless well of ability -- and yet a rare player who refrains from showing it all the time; preferring to stay in the pocket and with the music. After the demise of The Mars Volta he went on to make his Youtube channel Pedals and Effects, as well as filling in, or being a guest artist, for bands like Juliet Lewis & The Licks and Deltron 3030. But now it looks as though Juan is ready to do more of his own stuff, and has formed a new band: a three piece that utilizes his indulgent needs for all things pedals. This is a project I’ve been anticipating since their teasing of a debut LP last year. Just the very prospect of Juan going wild creatively has me, and many other bass players, foaming at the mouth. But when you take into account the other two talented members of Halo Orbit, it really does make for a promising project indeed; with Mark Guiliana on the drums and suGaron taking care of the guitar and synth work for the LP.
So with all this project has going for it, it pains me to say Halo Orbit’s self-titled debut isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Have you ever stumbled across an album that holds zero focus, one that has the hubris to be completely free, to do whatever the hell it wants? Well if you have, and it bored you to death or did your head in after awhile, I’d suggest thinking about whether you want to really dive in here. This thing is a collection of repetitive ideas being looped over and over with an astronomical amount of effects being thrown at the listener, sometimes to the point where you’ll feel seasick from it all being shoved in your face. The drums are frantic, albeit impressive nonetheless, and the guitar parts do a great job of enhancing this schizophrenic music -- and that’s the best way to sum up what this album is as a whole. It’s unhinged, wild and simply doesn’t give a proverbial -- and it definitely can, and will, test your patience throughout. The material on this record walks a tightrope between being dull and irritating. The vocal tracks on “One of These Days” and “Love or Lust” for example: the former being performed by rapper Del The Funky Homosapien and the latter coming from the band’s guitarist have the potential to be decent breaks from all the instrumental work, but quickly become annoying and out of place from the songs original aesthetic or intention. As the songs progress, so does the need to add vocal effects, and this adds damage to what could have been a decent addition to this LP’s lack of cohesion. Unfortunately, the result is something that leaves an eccentric undertone and a dirty taste in your mouth by the time it’s finished.
To be honest, the songs on here, while they aren’t exactly engaging to listen to, they do have some cool moments in places: Juan will pull out a cool effect or fill, or suGaron will do something that works really well with what the other guys are doing. But I can’t ignore the fact that these songs feel malnourished; there’s no real structure or focus, they just feel like jams for the most part, and average ones at that. However, there is one truly duff entry that left me a little annoyed I’d wasted my time on it: a 9 minute behemoth in the form of “Trieste”, which I can only describe as a long-winded interlude jam, similar to something off one of The Mars Volta’s albums, but instead of having all the pay-off that surrounds those Volta jams, replace them with even more inattentive jams that lead to nowhere. You’ll find yourself drifting off into space during most of what the track has to offer, zoning back in to check when it’s going to kick in, only to realise, to your dismay, you’re 8:36 into it. Other songs like “Brothers and Sisters” suffer from similar problems, but never quite to the extent "Trieste" does.
In the end it becomes a head scratching exercise for as to how these guys missed the mark. The performances on here certainly aren’t bad: Juan’s use of pedals is impressive to say the least, using an array of delay, reverb, synth and envelope filters, with God knows what else at his disposal; while the drumming, synth and guitar work fit adequately with everything else going on. But the bottom line is the songs on here just don’t cut it; they’re painfully lacklustre and don’t really offer anything exciting. Which is ironic given their fervent need for effects, you’d think that would be what made it exciting, but it’s actually one of the biggest problem on here in a lot of ways -- simply because they don’t know when to hold back. Less is definitely more. The use of effects on the vocals in particular just made everything feel goofy, and it’s a shame. There is only so long you can hold up a band with that party trick before more needs to be put on offer. And when you strip the tracks of all the bells and whistles what you’re left with is a lack of anything stellar, or even interesting to listen to. Maybe the three members of this group lacked a true connection; I can certainly see that as being a factor on why this isn’t great. But this is largely an instrumental record, and when you’re writing something like this the music has to be ten times more interesting in the process because of its weighing burden, which is something Halo Orbits
fails to do here.