The Helio Sequence
Sep 12, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue
The fifth record from Oregon-based indie rock duo The Helio Sequence sees the pair take a step back: time to take stock, to reassess. It's their first release since 2008's Keep Your Eyes Ahead, the success of which seems to have allowed them the space, money, and confidence to facilitate this fresh outlook.
With this creative self-appraisal in mind, Negotiations is particularly notable for its more delicate production touches. Bright, echoing guitar tones smack like menthol air to the back of the throat. It's there in the plaintive acoustic waltz of "Harvester of Souls"—those spacey, ethereal synth sounds floating past in the background—or the rising, resonating instrumental interludes of "Open Letter." That being said, this is an indie rock record through and through: vocals and a well-anchored rhythm section are the lifeblood here. Nevertheless, these subtle details add a buoyant, drifting dimension—the gliding sensation of the airport terminal automated walkway.
It's an artistic realignment that echoes Heaven, The Walkmen's unexpectedly mellow release from earlier in the year, and a band with whom this latest album shares marked stylistic similarities (things tend to get a bit derivative—take one listen to "October" and the pacific groove of its chorus). But while Hamilton Leithauser's roar has been retired, The Helio Sequence's rebirth is more an aesthetic shift from digital to analog—cold ones and zeros replaced by the warm crackle of hard-wired gear.
On hearing the record, one might be unsurprised to learn that the pair decamped from their previous recording space to a new home for the album's gestation period. Consequently, there's a conflicting sense of progression with Negotiations. In terms of songwriting, the duo comes off like a couple of kids rehearsing in their parents' garage, rediscovering their instruments and playing without censorship or burden. In terms of production and the palpable atmosphere that the album creates, on the other hand, The Helio Sequence have unquestionably matured. (www.heliosequence.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10