November 21, 2008

Helios: "Caesura".

Keith Kenniff returns as Helios with 2008's Caesura, and luckily enough for us, he's simply extended all the warm, resounding goodness of 2006's Eingya. In other words, the album is not, by virtue, an experimental progression off of Helios' body of work, but more a continuation of Kenniff's bright and ringy saturation of sound and soul; the album strays not a step from the path that is Helios' experimental/post-ambient sound.

Much like '06's Eingya, Caesura opens up soft and somewhat subliminally; like blood pumping through capillaries, the minimalist beat and ambient drones, otherwise incapable of any movement, are guided through a network of carefully chosen chord structures in "Hope Valley Hill".

"Come With Nothings" finds an interesting balance between synthetic, electronic rhythms and earthy tones, prominent in the sustained guitars and often-times chimey ambience that fills each tune like the wind through an open field on a cool summer evening, and "Glimpse" sees a beat similar to that of "Dragonfly Across an Ancient Sky", seemingly looped from a field recording rich with room noise, creaks and snaps.

Weaving atop the subtle percussion lies a combination of electric and acoustic guitar, providing two-thirds of the melody, the other third belonging to the soft bass accompaniment. Kenniff layers in, masterfully, a magnificent blend of sustained keys and synth swells to fill out and accentuate the heartbreaking melody.

"Backlight" is a chunky, guitar-driven tune featuring perhaps the most straightforward beat of any of Helios' recordings, and a much more emotional experience exudes from within "The Red Truth", featuring reverse swells in almost over-abundance contrasted by a lovely coalescence of electric and acoustic picking and a single octave bass line.

The album hardly winds down from here; the last four tracks are by far the best, which cannot so easily be said of Caesura's predecessor. "A Mountain of Ice" begins with a seemingly arbitrary arrangement of wind chime keys, and shortly after introduces a hard-hitting beat that sounds very much like shattering stalactites of ice.

"Mima" is arguably the prettiest track off the record, truly befitting the undiscovered brilliance of winter's splendor, and "Shoulder to Hand", my favorite track, is a stunning about-face from the sparkling grandeur of "Mima", the apotheosis of none other than winter's harsh and unforgiving nature.

So the question everybody seems to be asking: does it out-play Eingya? If pressed for an answer, I would have to reply with a determined "yes". Hard to fathom. Good work, Keith.

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