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Askew Review 15

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HELMS- The Swimmer (Kimchee Records) Of the four CDs I am reviewing for this issue, Helms definitely reigns supreme! These guys actually play music! Remember music? The Swimmer is a very instrumental work. Helms builds songs note by note in the same way an artist creates a magnificent painting one subtle brush stroke at a time. Helms has a clean captivating sound, effective without distortion, like the Smashing Pumpkins in their quieter moments. Slow textured notes build like raindrops and then climax with chords lending thunder to the drizzlescape. Suddenly I wish I had mood lighting. (Note to self: buy lava lamp). The vocals are VERY Lou Reed-like (translation: deadpan). Sometimes they are moody and spoken in near whispers like Roger Waters. But Helms is not consumed with chaos and nuclear war like Mr. Waters. Instead, they sing about playing Pac Man in an Italian bus station while the sun beats down. The vibrato of guitar, bass, and tinny drums suck you in to their weird and psychedelic world. Each track doesn't end in the conventional sense. This is more like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, or Radiohead where every note could suddenly turn and explode on you or rudely dissipate away just when you were enjoying it. "The Smallest World in the World" is definitely a highlight. It starts with rolling guitar that is echo-ey and liquid, smooth and jazzy. The minimalist vocal style is just enough, peeking over the sensual flow of the notes. Moments of silence add to the hypnotic nature of this song. Later on "Teenagers in the Woods" there are intricate flowery trills of guitar notes repeated like some alien Morse code. "Io" is stark and lonely, and ends in a decay of feedback. "Candy Fish" has a marching slow steady beat, electric guitar crashing chord or two, and vocals that emulate Marty Wilson-Piper of The Church. Thought went into these pieces resulting in a brooding, complex, thought provoking opus. If Helms were an acronym it might stand for Hypnotic, Enigmatic, Lush, and Meandering; and if I were a betting man I'd put my all my chips on Helms at the roulette table. -Tony Gerardi


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