Halma: Back To Pascal
Sunday Service

Retracing the haunted steps of Container Verloren Und Gesunken (Container Lost And Sunk) and Minifeld, Halma's moody third album Back To Pascal takes the listener on a nocturnal ride through Death Valley. The material is meditative, even funereal, yet still compelling in the unrelenting way it embraces its dark ambiance. Sometimes embedded in washes of atmospheric drift, electric guitars shudder and lap-steels twang over drum brush shuffles in the album's sonorous 'murder ballads.' Halma's ponderous sound recalls Labradford's at times, though the former is clearly the gloomier of the two; the metronomic “Fumarole” even appears to count off a convict's last minutes prior to execution. A shame, though, that vocals appear on only one song, as Bertermann's and Carstens' entranced exhalations on “Lands End” (“Let me travel this land / From the mountain to the sea / ‘Cos that's what I demand / For me”) deepen the tune's dramatic impact. Halma's slowcore-post-rock fusion is the perfect soundtrack for those 4 a.m. moments when disorientation sets in and various means of suicide are contemplated. In another group's hands, a song title like “Slumberland” might mean peaceful dreams; in Halma's, it more likely signifies the sleep from which one never emerges.

March 2006