Neil Halstead: Palindrome hunches (2012)

Sentido y Sensibilidad

Neil Halstead se ha labrado una reputación de artista más o menos de culto. Su creatividad le ha llevado a un punto de poder realizar discos en períodos de tiempo no necesariamente rápidos, y su productividad (al menos en los últimos tiempos) no es demasiada. El eterno parón de Mojave 3 le ha llevado a facturar ya tres discos en solitario, y en este último, su evolución le ha llevado a un concepto bastante espartano de la música: haciéndose acompañar tan sólo de guitarras acústicas, pianos, violines y algún cello, Halstead ha compuesto un cancionero sobre ” los sentimientos, el amor, la pérdida, la añoranza, los sueños o el futuro incierto, aunque el tema que da título al disco habla de algo tan difícil de aceptar como el perdón” (
Lo cierto es que aunque en unas primeras escuchas el álbum resulta un tanto áspero, sucesivas audiciones hacen ver que Palindrome hunches es un trabajo sereno, reflexivo, melancólico y desde luego, en el que la sensibilidad de Halstead sale a relucir a flor de piel.
Si te gusta o no el acompañamiento, ésa es otra historia. Atrás quedaron los devaneos juveniles Shoegazers y los tiempos del Dream-Folk de un grupo delicioso como Mojave 3. Las propuestas actuales de Halstead están más cerca del Pop acústico de artistas de índole absolutamente distinta que de las que apuntábamos anteriormente. ¿Cuál de las facetas del británico prefieres…? Yo creo que al líder de bandas como las citadas todo se le puede admitir.
Por cierto, aprovecho el post para recordaros que Neil estará en España en los próximos días. Os dejo la lista de ciudades:

01.02.2013 ES – Ourense – Café Pop Torgal
02.02.2013 ES – Vigo – La Iguana Club
03.02.2013 ES – Zaragoza – La Lata de Bombillas
04.02.2013 ES – Madrid – Siroco
05.02.2013 ES – Granada – Planta Baja
06.02.2013 ES – Murcia – 12 y Medio
07.02.2013 ES – Castellón – Tanned Tin Festival
08.02.2013 ES – Barcelona – TBC
09.02.2013 ES – San Sebastian – Altxerri
10.02.2013 ES – Aviles – Centro Niemeyer


“The release of Neil Halstead‘s third solo album produces a new wave of speculation about whether or not Slowdive will reunite. But it’s helpful to remember that his artistic position has basically been the same from the start. He’s a craftsman of, as a friend described it, “cozy sweater folk”. From the outset, Palindrome Hunches feels like the kind of hushed, close-gathered singalong that’s been idealized in indie rock since the start of the millennium.
The opener “Digging Shelters”, in its calmly melancholy way, and the softly chugging “Bad Drugs and Minor Chords” that follows it, essentially define where the rest of the album goes. Between those two poles there’s some variety; it does get a little too samey by the end, albeit never without feeling pleasant. Adding to the cozy feel, we’re told Palindrome Hunches was recorded live in a weekend at a music room in a UK primary school.
So, theoretically, it’s neither Slowdive nor Mojave 3; instead, it’s the kind of understated solo release that tips its hand to Nick Drake (“Full Moon Rising” is one of many moments where you basically can’t think of anyone else) as much as it does a whole swathe of early-70s, acoustic guitar-based releases, Halstead singing a half-whispered reflection on where everything’s been in his life and others. At this point, he’s not about reinvention so much as he is exploring possibilities from a central start.
Returning to the first Slowdive release, the self-titled 1990 EP, where both versions of “Avalyn” open with a treated acoustic strum and where on the first one Halstead’s vocals (blended with Rachel Goswell’s) are delivered softly and calmly, what has changed most in Halstead’s work isn’t the wellspring, per se, but the means of delivery. He has, even at Slowdive’s loudest and Mojave 3’s most sweeping and stately, always implicitly argued for the virtues of gentility, of understated retrospection and performance, and emotion recalled afterward. It’s little surprise that the crypto-goth/post-punk roots of Slowdive via bands like the Cure and early New Order tie into this sense of splendid near-isolation, and that a solo career by default puts the focus all the more clearly on this core.
So if “Wittgenstein’s Arm” draws its lyrical inspiration from the story of a wounded pianist from World War I (and therefore includes piano) and if the title track is indeed all about palindromes (you’ll never think of Satan quite the same way), then everything still comes back to that point of origin. But as with his earlier bands, it’s the choice of arrangements and performance that drives his solo work, a specific aiming for a sound. Halstead’s performing reinvents no wheels but never is anything less than well-done regardless, and the full performances can often find their own impact, the violin of Ben Smith– one of several performers from Band of Hope playing as the backing group throughout– often providing a softly killer touch on songs like “Love Is a Beast”, “Full Moon Rising”, and especially in the nervous opening moments of “Tied to You”.By the time of the piano-led “Hey Daydreamer”, one of the peppier songs in context, the album’s been the type of thing that seems right for the closing in of the year through fall, something best heard in fading light, bundled a bit against the cooler air, a little shared warmth– cozy sweater folk, indeed. Nope, it ain’t shoegaze as it’s been codified and re-codified. But why be disappointed in someone following his muse to a logical conclusion when that path was always the one he walked on?” (

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