According to the press release for The Helio Sequence’s latest effort, Negotiations, the album’s sound was shaped by nature itself. Back in 2009, their practice space was completely flooded thanks to some faulty pipes. Luckily, they were on tour at the time, so most of their good equipment was with them. The band found a new place with more room– specifically, more room for instruments– and filled the space with analog gear, including tape delays and tube amps. The resulting work is warmer and more ethereal than before, comprising a strong and inviting album.
The amount of sound that the duo of Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel can create in the space of each song is astounding by itself. But the way Weikel has programmed his synths and tailored his drums, how Summers has crafted his guitar lines, and how it’s all finally submerged in acres of reverb is truly remarkable. The album is both winter sparse and fireplace warm. There are two tracks in particular that exemplify these extremes.
With “One More Time”, Summers’ jangling guitar and soaring vocals surround the listener like snow and jacket simultaneously, holding you close as he sings, “Rest yourself easy, baby.” The notes seem to roll forever outward from Summers’ and Weikel’s musical heat, the reverb deflecting the cold. The minimal “Harvester of Souls”, on the other hand, is as stark as the album gets—it’s as if Summers is sitting in an empty aircraft hangar of chilling tape reverb, pouring himself out and beckoning you forth into the darkness. Weikel’s sparse percussion and synths creak and clink like ice in the trees. It’s chilling and beautiful.
These two songs represent the opposite sides of this album—one comforting you on a dark night and the other pushing you out with no flashlight—and in between are songs like “Downward Spiral”, where Weikel’s synth and drum work shines the most. His programmed descending arpeggio owes credit to Radiohead’s “National Anthem”, but his drums give the track an intoxicating dance feel.
Summers and Weikel work incredibly well together on Negotiations. Summers’ haunting voice and shimmering guitars roll and intertwine with Weikel’s drum and synth work effortlessly. It’s an album that may take an extended listen, but once you key in, you won’t shake it off.
Essential Tracks: “One More Time”, “Harvester of Souls”