Brooklyn’s Heliotropes originally formed around a Craigslist posting looking for likeminded musicians to jam on Brian Eno covers, but they’ve since wandered off down a dark, hazy cave. The all-female four-piece now hew more closely to stoner rock and psychedelia, their layered atmospherics working in the service of dark, chugging beasts. Their debut LP A Constant Sea carries the weight of a psychological horror film, a slow, oppressive haunting that occasionally explodes into poltergeist terror.
The steadily thumped toms and scarring guitar riffs that open “Ribbons” are ripped from a Melvins track, but vocalist Jessica Numsuwankijkul wreathes the composition like a breath of grey smoke in lieu of Buzzo’s commanding yawp. “Come with me, my imaginary/ Ghost in hiding, specter in the spring,” she cooly beckons, a sharp-toothed Kim Gordon apathy flashing in the darkness.
“Quatto” follows immediately, baring its fangs outright. Percussionist Amber Myers steps up to provide haunted “oohs,” giving Numsuwankijkul free reign to wail and howl atop a wash of deep, dark guitars. When the waves settle momentarily, an eerie drone reveals itself, the tension clearly not settled.
Heliotropes break out the acoustic guitar on a pair of tracks with group harmonies carrying wisps of melody. Closer “Christine” provides an unexpected sock hop sweetness, its waltzing ease showing that these four aren’t propelled solely by darkness. But Cici Harrison’s drums and Nya Abudu’s bass are the dark matter engine of A Constant Sea, and the songs that pair that intensity with Numsuwankijkul’s chainsaw guitar and spectral moan shine brightest.
The duality of precise beauty and animal fury aligns the band with the mythic siren. “You’re so still,” they sweetly harmonize near the end of “Psalms”, everything dropping into silence before the massive riff leaps back into frame, ready to tear you limb from limb. Heliotropes show a surprisingly mature and focused control of their formula on A Constant Sea, luring you in only to eat you alive.
Essential Tracks: “Ribbons”, “Quatto”, and “Psalms”