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Amidst an atmosphere of melancholia, Peter Michel has thrown himself into a lifetime’s worth of writing, recording and touring belied by his young age. At just 17, the Seattle-based musician toured extensively with dream pop outfit Craft Spells, and most recently met critical acclaim with his personal project, Hibou. In Halve, Hibou’s third full length album, Michel creates a characteristically ethereal record addressing the dichotomies confronting every young adult in the 21st century: the division between childhood and adulthood, self and society, authenticity and superficiality. But Michel brings these themes additional intensity due to his history of dissociative depersonalization disorder: his mind’s frequent inability to feel connected with his body. “Alone I am weak to the breakers / they bring every column down in a reckless desire” he sings in ‘As Always’. The struggle to latch on to his experiences, both present and past, manifests in obsessive control over the complex but precisely layered melodies on the album, in which he produces, plays every instrument, and mixes every song. The outcome is a work filled with swooning, hazy reflections on loss, love, nostalgia, and joy from a 10,000-foot view. It pleads for you to stay in the moment while planting the seed that you will likely lose this memory as it slips into a misty wistfulness.
The result is not sad – in fact, it’s often light and embracing. Michel’s vocals comfortably twist from echoing whispers to punkish accusations; his guitar from dizzying surf hooks to lush ‘80s- inspired chords. Control – and the lack of it – reverberates throughout the album, and the ironic consequence is a set of ten deeply vulnerable songs that will find you romanticizing your own childhood, your own teenage years, your own morning. These days, Michel keeps fastidious handwritten journals and hoards VHS tapes from his childhood in order to keep himself grounded – haunting excerpts from these videos bookend the album. “Just be pure, alive, and self-assured,” Michel repeats towards the end of the album. It seems as much a request for the world as a reminder to himself: this is within my control. This I can promise. His music is a testament to fixation as a cure for apathy, and the fantasies that emerge from a mind unmoored.