Photo: Cleo Hetherington
The Lexington, London
January 11 2016
Words: Linn Branson
The first things most noticeable when Haelos, London's much hailed prospect for 2016, take to the stage is a) the number of people - six - that swell out the live band set-up and fill the small platform, b) the amount of kit they have, from two drum machines, keys, synths, guitar, down to smaller instruments like tambourines and maracas, and c) when one of the Haelos main three, Arthur Delaney, pitches up in a street cool Mahararishi coat and baseball cap, you do keep half expecting him to break out in a rap at some point (he doesn't, by the way) if you are not overly familiar with the outfit who have risen steadily over the last 18 months to become a focal name on tastemakers' lips.
What else soon becomes apparent as they get underway with the sampled 'Intro' leading into the synth strains of 'Spectrum', is how good they are and how easily during their sold out headline set at The Lexington, each of the ten songs seem to seep inside your senses and pull you into them.
The male/female vocal dynamic of Delaney and Lotti Benardout (third member of the party is synth/keys man Dom Goldsmith) may, on looks alone - he, as mentioned, all street; she, blonde, ethereal and floaty - be slightly too disparate to work, yet in practice, they balance each other well, and both lend something to the visual presence that is as engrossing as much as what emanates from them vocally, and indeed, lyrically, when you take a closer look.
Comparisons have been made before to London Grammar, but add to that a hint of Vaults and a smattering of Massive Attack - and you might just be getting half-way there. Even then there seems more lurking beneath the surface from their influences to the dark electronic instrumentation and Bernadout's ceiling-reaching, frequently spine-tingling vocals as on trip hop beauty 'Pray'. This may for now come in at second place on the set schedule, but it really is such a blindingly orchestrated piece - confirmed by the crowd's appreciative cheers and whistles at its end - that you can expect this to figure a closer or encore prerequisite as Haelos climb higher up the ladder of musical heights.
'Earth Not Above' is on the Massive Attack pulse, with“Some people need heroes/some people need love" being apposite lyrically, while the down-tempo 'The Sun Rising' with slow, hypnotic beats and Delaney's tambourine jangle, are cut with vocal samples and Bernadout's velvet vocals proclaiming, "Movement outside/silence inside." 'Dust', their 2014 introduction, is chilled in their descriptive “dark euphoria". The latter is followed by the propulsive beat and infectiously rhythmic 'Oracle' - introduced by Bernadout as being on their debut album out in March, a statement well-received by the buzzing throng of fans - song they unveiled online this week, which takes on more colour-infused soul hues.
About to head to the US this month for a handful of dates on the West Coast - with a later return for appearances at SXSW and Coachella festivals - Haelos, with their ability to create otherworldly, but easily accessible and engaging landscapes of sound, have the makings of a band on the road to a Mercury Prize nomination. Remember you read that here first.