There is only one true moment of stillness, the moment right when your eyes open. And with every second hastily passing, we write in our journals about how the wind took shape and what echoed through it that day. We’ll read them later to try and figure out who we were three years ago and find that the same things that drove us before can no longer sustain us now.
Before, we could live off of hope and nothing more. But now, no matter how hard we try, we can’t keep our hearts safe just as much as we can’t stop hoping the outcome will be different. We will act as if we can transcend the natural progression of the earth’s rotation, defeating our Furies faster than the time it actually takes to learn the lesson. But at what cost–why fast forward through what little time we have when maybe the resolution is understanding life’s impermanence?
Now enter LA’s ethereal grunge trio, untitled (halo), who has embraced the transient nature of time passing slowly. Together they converge on a sentiment of capturing moments as they are, even as life’s complexities continue to reveal their force.
(halo) members Ari, Jay, and Jack perviously met through various connections but ultimately found each other musically on a group chat dedicated to a redacted indie musician known to sing songs about girls named Mary, Gretel, and Sarah. “It was like a group chat effort.” Jay shares, adding, “Alright, whoever wants to be in the band, just pull up to Ari's at 7 PM.” After a night at an infamous Echo Park watering hole, Jay and Ari sat down to make music together for the first time and “El Prado Freestyle”–their debut track about the pressure of new love against the background of a desolate world–was created, and Jack was called in to lend his harmonic strings. As one, the band creates expansive, lush atmospherics, and otherworldly textures within their refrains.
Their debut ep, towncryer, reveals itself to us as a six-track opus to navigating the corridors of youth. The three create a dense sound wall of sullen dissonance, attuned to and aware of fading moments and the liminalities within them. Introspectively charged lyrics latch onto swirling guitar, ethereal harmonies, and immersive bass lines. It speaks of existentialism, tender naivety, and turmoil unseen. Within the first track, “Xiua,” we absorb a trance-like quality that reaches sonic intensity before returning to its subdued state. In its entirety towncryer, built on ephemerality, is hypnotic and a look into their collective unconscious. The band’s aural palette reads seamless, effortlessly creating a bed of dreamy and distorted soundscapes. “It’s more than a friendship dynamic.” Jack says of their synergy, “There's so much more invested in it. It's like your whole soul is in this relationship now because you're all creating one unified thing.”
And it is almost symbiotic the way in which the band comes together, with Jay’s drum loops creating the song’s infrastructure, mixing with the melodic strings of Jack’s guitar, all adorned by Ari’s spoken word. In the closing track, “Oblique Butterfly,” Ari sings simply like a well-kept secret, “You can find me in the dark.” Her voice sewn into the beginning, bleeds out into a textural resonance by the end, as her confession is deeply felt. “I think the intention is making something really true and authentic to us and to the city. That's how I describe it. And something that captures the current day and age is really an interesting thing. Every song captures something new,” Ari shares. “And every song you hear is very different, like intrusive. Every song is so honest. It's simple, it's about the existential periods of life and where we're at. That's what you're hearing.” And it’s true, the songs are earnest, even if laced with ambiguity. The result is a wholly autonomic sound oblivious to external expectations, while the EP’s nascence becomes clearer.
For untitled (halo), it is not about creating something entirely unknown, but instead about documenting the present. Jack shares, “I feel like everyone is working in a void and trying to create their own worlds, but I want to remember the world around me when I made something. I just want to remember how I felt at that moment and how the world felt around me.” There is something familiar about towncryer. It almost has nothing to do with the sound, just that we know the feeling of having yearned to feel a time that has already passed.
“I felt like I was going through a lot of what felt like paranoia and anxiety where I actually was so paranoid and terrified, that I didn't feel present in any moments for a long time. I felt like I was disconnected. And I was making these pieces just to remember because in the moment I wasn't there. So when I do look back on it, it's like ‘Okay, so that's what the sky looks like. And that's what the ground looks like.’ And that's kind of how I feel about music too.” Jack continues, “So when I record songs, to hear the chairs creaking, or my voice cracking; I'm interested in that. And I feel like we offer that kind of two-way mirror. Most musicians are kind of trying to create a world, where we are in the world. We're transparent and earnest.”
What is left is a diaristic recollection of what has happened, delicately bottling the fragility of consciousness. And yes, we are forced to rise and fall only to do it all over again, but maybe the beauty is in its transience. Jack explains, “I tell myself: I'm riding the low. I feel like I'm coasting in a way where I'm kind of in the middle of it, aware of it, dealing with it, and not questioning it anymore. I’ve been in highs and lows, but I'm not gonna fight the low anymore.” And instead of getting lost in the dark, untitled (halo) harnesses tendrils of hesitation or worry into something productive and tangible. Ari adds, “I like feeling things because you're gonna die one day, so I want to feel the most–that's what keeps my heart open. I want to feel the most you can ever feel.”
Perhaps nothing is as brief as the present, even as you remember to think of it, it has already slipped away. But it is in times of dread when the air is truly still and clarity takes hold. Jack jokes, “Honestly, you could live forever if you spend your whole life at the DMV. And that's kind of how I think about things sometimes.” Jay laughs, adding, “With fluorescent lighting, you’re present. You’re never gonna die, you know?”
And while we can only wish for an eternal fluorescent sunshine, time moves on whether our eyes are opened or closed, but it’s up to us to notice.
You can find untitled (halo) featuring on NTS this Monday, September 25th from 4-5pm PST and tonight at their soldout show at LA’s Genghis Cohen.