-- By Eric J. Lawrence, KCRW Music Librarian and DJ
Portland, OR-based duo the Helio Sequence have learned to roll with the punches in the past couple of years. Singer/guitarist Brandon Summers damages his vocal chords? He just changes his approach and relearns how to sing. Heavy rains flood the band’s practice space? Move to a different, more private and larger one. Such dedication has granted them good karma, coming off a couple of acclaimed releases on Sub Pop and extensive touring with Keane. And now that they’ve got a new album finished you can hear how their evolution has changed their sound in ways that might have been hard to anticipate on the basis of their debut recordings over a decade ago.
The pulsing, up-front electronics of past records have been replaced by more spacious soundscapes, as much influenced by reverbed guitar figures as by sequenced bleeps. Summers’ more antic, strained vocal style has morphed in a smoother croon, while drummer Benjamin Weikel’s toms are given more space, recalling the Walkmen’s more contemplative moments. Songs like “October” soar, while others, like “Harvester of Souls,” sound as if they are being played by a solitary acoustic guitarist in the middle of the biggest, loneliest, emptiest ballroom in Portland, with the foghorns of boats on the distant river echoing in the background.
All of these changes lend a greater emotional weight to their songs (surely a trick learned from their time with Keane, the masters of the anthemic alt-pop sound), without being cloying or maudlin. It’s definitely a different Helio Sequence, but one that is certainly not unwelcome and one that will undoubtedly catch some new ears.
Negotiations will be available to stream on demand from Monday, September 10 through September 17, 2012.
Banner image: Pavlina Summers