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Helvetia – Nothing in Rambling

on September 20, 2012, 7:57am

The title of Helvetia’s new album lays out a good descriptor for the music: rambling. Nothing in Rambling is Helvetia mastermind Jason Albertini trapped in a dark room of psychedelic shimmers, slapping echo, and some instruments making music that feels cyclical—like if you dropped the needle at any point on the record, you would end up right back where you started. He has emerged from that room with an album that has passing-headlight flashes of solid work, but once those lights pass, you’re lost on the dark highway again, only lingering remnants of light in front of your eyes.

This isn’t to say the album is bad. Albertini does a great job of keeping the choas contained. It just feels rudderless. For example, opening track “Pumpkin Rose” starts seemingly in the middle, a large whoosh of electronics ushering you in to the immediate start of a verse. There is a constant, sometimes disorienting swirl of bleeps and bloops, like Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and a guitar solo of melodic chaos underneath their twangy lo-fi sound. “Stay Wild” has a similar sense of in media res, Albertini starts the verse with, “I must have been scared,” before the minor key discordant guitars begin chugging along behind at a languid midtempo. These songs, coupled with the more structured title track and the speeding-then-braking tempo changes of “Nettles”, add up to a disorienting whole.

When the songs do get structured, its a refreshing respite. The title track has a steady bass and guitar beat exchange and boom-bap-boombap drum throughout, but keeps the dark mood. Albertini’s voice has a distorted echo that quickly dissipates with each syllable. He ends the track with, “Most of the town better off not blaming anyone but yourself” as the music stops so “yourself” eerily echoes into nothing. It sends a quick chill up your spine.

The constant whirling reverb of Nothing in Rambling gives it a directionless feeling that’s hard to shake. It’s easy to lose track of the album in that roar, but it isn’t sloppy. It’s like driving down a dark, straight highway, like I-70 through Kansas, and staring at the white lines passing you by as you listen to the motor hum. Then you realize you’re going 90mph and 30 minutes has passed somehow. Nothing in Rambling slips by in similarly dizzying fashion.

Essential Tracks: “Nothing in Rambling”, “Stay Wild”

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