It’s been a long time since Halves played Cyprus Avenue. Two years to be precise but despite this lengthy sojourn, the Dubliners are welcomed fervently by a crowd all too eager to exchange forgiveness for some ambient electronica from new album Boa Howl. Clearly not ones to rush greatness, the record itself has been three years in the making, following on from their much-lauded debut.
The wait is worth it though, with the band delivering a haunting and reverential set featuring songs from both albums, all imbued with uniquely layered and ethereal, almost hypnotic arrangements. Crowd chatter remains at a minimum – everyone completely immersed in melodic rapture, subconsciously swaying. Once each song ends, however, Halves always manage to bring those in attendance rushing back to reality, sharing self-deprecating jokes with the crowd and with each other and exuding a relaxed attitude rarely seen on the Irish music circuit. Half way through it becomes apparent that Elis Czerniak isn’t wearing any shoes. The reason for this isn’t immediately apparent, and it is never mentioned or explained, but it’s a good indication of where this band are and how they view themselves – they’re having fun, they’re doing what they love, and they’re not taking it all too seriously.
Boa Howl is a mysterious album that features a delectable mix of confident, upbeat tracks right beside those of a more abstract disposition. It’s an impressive second offering that showcases Halves’ homemade brand of straightforward complexity but they have always been a difficult band to grasp and, to truly understand them, you need to experience them in a live setting. It’s a cliché, but this is a band that really do need to be seen to be believed.
Photo: Bríd O’Donovan