Half of Half is an Oakland-based group based in the Bay Area's avant-garde and performance art scenes. They take rock and jazz, turn it out and make their unique voice through trained ears, mindful choicesand the aversion of the norm. Since 2012, Half of Half has organized large-scale multimedia performances incorporating other musical acts as well as poets, actor, and sculptors. The limits to their artistic expression go far beyond just the stage and studio. Monotone comes as the band’s debut and really puts focus on the male and female lead vocals, non-traditional structure and left field approaches to pop. The result is a thought provoking collection of art that renders somewhere ahead of easy folk, but not lively enough to be alternative. It’s like a cross between a sedated Beck and The Civil Wars on Ambien.
I would categorize this as perfect music for studying, relaxing or even mind expanding. The songs tend to fall under the listener’s radar at times, but the linear movement has enough peaks to pique the senses from time to time. Low volume mastering is key to the tone as well as the soft intensity delivered on the instruments and vocals. I was immediately impressed with the range of dynamics on the drums, switching from articulate hats to sweeping rides, all while utilizing several types of sticks. These are the things that separate true musicians from the many hopefuls.
“Book” is a great opener to the album. It holds all the ingredients that Half of Half use throughout the greater recipe – jazz instrumentation, linear groove, warmth and tension, dynamic flow, it’s all in there. The leading harmonies are always right on and marked with memorable quality considering the beautifully odd character in their voices.
Things get a little funky on “Static” and it wakes up the sound scape briefly before the remaining tracks bring things back to a calm brew. I would like to see Half Of Half live to really engage in their message and spirit as a band. It’s hard to dig deep when you have the surface knowledge of just an album and bio. I think this group is more than worthy of praise and yet my appetite was not satiated. Less was not necessarily more for me on Monotone.
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