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Release Magazine "throb." Review 2004


Spending several years in the studio is generally not a good thing. Haloblack’s third album “Throb.” has been four years in the making, postponed time and time again, which felt more than a little worrying. But the album proves to have been well worth the wait. It does seem like it may have shed skin a couple of times though, at least considering that Bryan Black talked enthusiastically about bringing in a trip hop sound when I met him in London in 2000. There’s not much trip hop to be heard on the final album, although it at least shares an atmosphere of sensual darkness with Tricky’s landmark debut “Maxinquaye”. If there indeed was any indecisiveness about the sound, it doesn’t show. “Throb.” is varied, but very coherent. It’s a big leap forward from the old Haloblack sound – darker, slower, murkier, but also even more in a realm entirely its own.

“Throb.” is actually strikingly inventive in places. The gritty electronics, fractured beats and rattling funk meet to create a pulsating, spiky organism that spits static, hiss and tales of alienation and depraved behaviour. Darkness, drugs and decadence prevail. So much so that if it would have been done with less skill and lyrical imagination, it would have gotten lost in a swamp of introspective nonsense. But not so. “Junky”, for instance, manages to intertwine sex and junk (to speak with William Burroughs’s words), and make the marriage sound extremely silky and sexualized. Not least due to Arianne Schreiber, whose voice, like in a couple of other songs, complements Bryan Black’s whisper to great effect.

Not everything is slow though. “Feel” is a perverted dance track of sorts, the lyric’s self loathing almost obscured by noisy nightmarish funk and razorsharp Fischerspooner-esque basslines that threatens to cut the song in two twitching halves. In “Punch the Deck” Raymond Watts snarls out the lyric of ennui and depression over a great, chunky electric bass, massive metal guitars and messy electronics. “Love Méchante” is on the other hand one of the few flaws on “Throb.”, mainly ruined by its overly simple electroclash foundation. Otherwise “Throb.” is consistently good in its own pleasantly unpleasant way. These dark corners of the mind are not too bad places to visit when you’re in the company of Haloblack.