Howard Hello's self-titled album begins with Television: an acoustic guitar rambles in John Fahey fashion, twinkling in and out, contracting and retracting, and then suddenly something unexpected happens and when it does it is among the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard: another layer of acoustic guitar is tangled through electronic processing and still retains its note-to-note properties but becomes jumbled in a manner akin to Nobukazu Takemura's glitch electronica work. Add a beautiful woman's voice to the mix and a state of bliss has been found. And so it goes for the entirity of the record: beautiful wordless vocal melodies layered over intricate guitar, field recordings, manipulation, and mood.

Nothing is out of my control
Revolution is invisible.
The only way out of here is in.

She sings this in Revolution, repeating each line while scratching her voice with a baleful edge complimented by layers of fuzz and feedback, reversed sound pokes and prod in full stereo spectrum.

The gorgeous voice belongs to one Wendy Allen, singer for The Court and Spark (named after the Joni Mitchell album of the same name, with whom she shares many vocal qualities) and source of the haunting voice in Tarentel's cover of Rickie Lee Jones' Ghostyhead on their The Order of Things album. Other members of the band include Kenseth Thibideau (also from Tarentel), and Marty Anderson.

I couldn't say no...

If as a listener you seek out beautiful music that is at once an homage to previous productions, but also looks ahead and gives great care to sonic qualities, I highly recommend this album. On Dream, the acoustic guitars take on an almost harp-like effect, and the stereo spread is mind altering. I'm not quite sure I understand this album entirely yet, but I have been making motions to for the last few weeks. It is enthralling, lulling, and can be quite relaxing. And though it is all these qualities, it is not boring by any means. The pensive nature of the minimalism, the imminent feeling of sadness towards some unseeable force-- the listlessness of the exploratioins just serve to intrigue me further. To pull me down into it even further.

The album's ten and a half minute closer, Hello is a breath-taking cohesion of all these elements but it adds some new qualities as well. I can hear the soft whistling of flute underneath the waves of thoroughly processed sounds. The guitar dances like a little child in the rain, her footsteps leaving imprints in the irridescent mud... Wendy's voice, multi-tracked to provide operatic highs and lows, simultaneous self-harmonizing holograms: one listens to a single element of the voice, and it's representative of the whole.

But then, one can merely listen to the album, without paying attention, and it'll go by fast. And it'll do its job without any intellectual or cosmic considerations. It's multi-leveled like that.

  1. Television
  2. Belief
  3. Revolution
  4. America
  5. Prozac
  6. Dream
  7. Hello

This album was released in 2002 by Temporary Residence records.