Helios: Caesura

[27 January 2009]

By Timothy Gabriele

Big Beat’s monumental drum breaks sound dated principally due to misuse. Intensely tweaked-out turbo-charged beats trigger Pavlovian flashes of sleek car commercials from the flashy pre-recession days of excess from which they came. Similarly, as of late, noodly and slightly fey post-rock seems to elicit instant thoughts of the contemplative American neorealist indie film, where ethereal synth strings and fluttering backwards-masked effects substitute for an inner monologue, allowing for slight elements of fantasy to creep into grim naturalistic narratives.

Keith Kenniff, who records under both Goldmund and Helios, is a soundtrack artist awaiting a film, but several albums in Kenniff’s style of non-event ambient diary journalism is starting to feel like a seventh reel loop. It’s all expertly produced, of course, but expansion of Helios’s sound on Kenniff’s latest Caesura is tertiary at best. Dullest of all are the beats, which often seem more like place holders than elemental necessities. Paramount instead is a kind of sober and genteel emotiveness that is purposefully sentimental and well-designed to fade way back into the backdrop of your listening world, like some of the more muzaky This Mortal Coil tracks, Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd’s collaborative work, or the new age-tinged moments of early naughts Morr Music ambient. Like much film music, it’s a shame something so proficient and detailed winds up relegated to mere scenery. But then again, listened to closely, it’s often hard to get blown away by much of the music itself.

Caesura contains occasional moments of sheer beauty, and that fact is hard to elude for fans of the music, but it’s yet another stationary moment for the genre of post-rock new age ambient electro, a music whose stargazing sound was an euphorically introverted and indulgent sugar-high when Manual, Casino Versus Japan, and Explosions In the Sky unleashed the sound seven years ago. It’s not that the moment for such things has past. It’s that the music, never based as much on temporal moments so much as timeless cosmic gestures, seems to be recycling its singular view of the eternal.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/69225-helios-caesura/