Haleiwa - Cloud Formations - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Haleiwa - Cloud Formations

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2019-07-05
Haleiwa - Cloud Formations
Haleiwa - Cloud Formations

Haleiwa is the brainchild of Stockholm native Mikko Singh, named after the North Shore community on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii. Cloud Formations is his third release under the name and a departure from the guitar-centric music of his first two sets. There's an antique sound to a lot of the music, influenced by the vintage synthesizers Singh used for much of the material he produced.

The album is a peculiar mishmash of styles, sometimes sounding like ambient electronic, and others like blurry shoegaze. It's hard to pin down exactly where the band's core sensibilities lie. Are they an IDM group? Hawaiian surf rockers? West coast indie dream poppers? Washed-Out style chillwave? In the end, it's all these things at various times and in varying quantities, tied together by Singh's reedy, friendly vocals and classically trained guitar playing.

The opening synths of lead track 'HKI -97' had me really excited. There were pure electronics, with just the right modulation, and I was entranced. But the song quickly morphed into a sort of drowsy indie rock, making for an odd mix of sounds that didn't quite work. Repeated listens helped me grow accustomed to it, but it never quite clicked perfectly. Luckily, the hints of beauty foreshadowed other wonderful songs later on. The title track does a better job of juxtapositioning the two styles, creating a nice, dreamy flow with the dopey synths and slightly scratched up guitar. It's hazy but still coherent.

'Northern Celestial Hemisphere' is another track that delicately blends the two halves into a beautiful whole, with perky synths and mellow acoustic guitar working in harmony to create something fragile and numinous. And 'Foggy' is liable to make you float away on its hypnotic somnolence. Incredible, tiny little synth chirps, twinkling mid-ranges, and slowly plucked guitars combined into something transcendent.

Other tracks are more unfocused, with fuzzy layers messily woven together: bleary guitars as far as the eye can see, with very little in the way of rhythm to give the song a direction. 'Ka'a'awa Surfin'' and 'Crossroads' both have this issue, where the music is the aural equivalent of wearing the wrong prescription of glasses, although the latter is a bit crisper in the early going.

Then there are tracks that play it more indie rock. 'Swell' just about completely drops the electronics and works the guitars a lot harder, though still with an essential sweetness at their core. And 'Cold Concrete' is a lo-fi, backwoods track, like a song you'd hear played in someone's yard.

As an electronic devotee, I found myself wishing that side of music was emphasized more, but I was still basically satisfied with what was on offer here. The majority of the tracks are at least pretty good, with a couple of gorgeous standouts. Anyone wondering about this odd overlap of genres will probably find this set worthwhile, as more than just a curiosity.

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