Along their near two-decade rise in indy music, Brandon Summers and Benjamin Welkel—the duo known in ensemble as The Helio Sequence—haven’t had it entirely easy. Mostly due to Summers’ near career- and band-ending vocal troubles in the mid aughts, the band seemed doomed for a few years. But lifestyle changes, dedication and vocal exercises pushed Summers back into performance in time to record their fourth album, “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” That same dedication has resulted in a pretty strong sixth effort, their self-titled new album released last month on Sub Pop. The Helio Sequence is on tour across North America now, and stopping tomorrow night in the Larimer Lounge, with Lost Lander and Reuben Hollebon, so you have a chance to catch the chill first hand.
The two compiled the ten songs as part of a game with their Portland friends called the “20-Song Game.” The rules were to record 20 songs in one day, then have a listening party with the other bands and musicians to hear the results. It was also meant to be a creative exercise, to help musicians push through creative blocks, to create in the moment, and to learn to take the good with the bad. According to Sub Pop’s press release, Summers and Welkel didn’t quite stick with the progress as planned, and instead decided they’d stretch the exercise out to a month, make as much music as possible in that time, and apply it to the creation of their next album.
Here’s a sample: “Stoic Resemblance,” from “The Helio Sequence”
“The Helio Sequence” album, though satisfying overall, is surprisingly a little tame itself—even for another chillwave offering. While you can hear a new sense of urgency in the songs—it’s evident that they were moving from one experiment to the next pretty quickly (they actually came up with 26 songs over the course of the month, and kept ten for the record). But there’s also a subtle repetition from beginning to end—maybe the result of moving too quickly.
“Battle Lines” starts the record slowly, with a great summer-psychedelia feel, showing off more of Summers’ guitar work (which, perhaps fittingly, recalls work by the iconic Andy Summers, who, along with Stewart Copeland, formed the strongest portion of great ’80s band The Police, albeit with a little Pixies’ roughness).The next highlight is “Stoic Resemblance,” (listen to the MP3 above) a pretty perfect summer afternoon soundtrack mainstay. Welkel’s drumming across the record remains strong and innovative. “Red Shifting” moves in with an anthemic feel, and leads into maybe the album’s best piece, “Upward Mobility” (see the beautifully animated video below).
By most accounts, though, the duo’s live set is more than strong. Don’t miss the chance to catch this still-climbing Portland Chillwave duo at the Larimer Lounge, Friday, June 5th, and see for yourself.