After three albums and ten years of touring and recording, in 2008 The Helio Sequence deliver their most dynamic work to date. This record marries the Portland duo's signature layered keyboards and impossibly big guitars with crisp songwriting and a newfound appreciation for minimalism. Sub Pop Records.
For just two guys, the Helio Sequence can generate a serious racket. With the effusive drumming of Benjamin Weikel (who also plays keyboards), and the nimble use of effects pedals from guitarist/vocalist Brandon Summers, their 2000 debut Com Plex
leaned toward My Bloody Valentine-like daydreamy noisescapes. Their output since then has evolved, with a deepening commitment to pop melody and structure. Keep Your Eyes Ahead
is the truest expression so far of that trait. Summers maintains a grainy quality to his singing, but he's added sweetness and a lighter sense of tone. That shift toward lightness extends to the songwriting, which on Eyes
is consistently catchy and focused. Can't Say No uses a double-time cadence in the verse to make the song's hook burst like the sun through a hurricanes eye. Not that theyve forgotten how to bring the shoegaze; Hallelujah, for one, flies off into space on a wave of epic, bliss-fuzz guitar. Still, the record is short and cries out for one last big scream. Instead, they end with the whisper of Broken Afternoon and the folksy, Dylan-esque No Regrets. Their increasing subtlety has cost them some grandeur, but their melodious gifts are more seductive than ever. --Matthew Cooke