Envenomist: The Helix

Envenomist makes creepy, minimalist soundscapes that move glacially, scraping dissonant tones against each other above droning bass. Too bad it all starts to sound the same after a while.


The Helix

Label: Killer Pimp
US Release Date: 2009-03-31
UK Release Date: Import
Artist Website

The coolest thing I can say about Envenomist is that The Helix scares my cats. Every time I started up a track from this album, with its droning bass and screechy overtones, both cats would scurry for the nearest cover, hiding for several minutes until they adjusted to the creepy sounds coming out of my speakers. Envenomist is a full-on synthesizer project from David Nathan Reed, who has done a lot of other dark industrial-style music with a bunch of different names including his own, Starlight Fleecing, Avant Collective and Luasa Raelon. The material on The Helix consists of minimalist, slow-moving, unsettling soundscapes. It's interesting stuff, at least for a little while.

Reed makes no attempt to make anything on the album resemble natural instruments, and there's nothing approaching a beat on any of the five tracks. This album is really just a collection of creepy soundscapes, like the soundtrack to some art-house horror film that never existed. The formula is relatively simple: Most tracks start with a low-bass sound and add high overtones that seem to scrape across each other as they pass. Sometimes it's a single tone, but most often several dissonant high sounds clash against each other, coming in slowly and leaving gradually. In the midrange, other sounds come and go, adding more atmosphere as the tracks flow glacially along.

This is all very effective at first. The first two tracks, "The 11th Hour" and "Heptadecagon" use these elements quite well and are sort of fascinating to hear. It's a bit unnerving to hear these sounds push against each other like thick oil or some other viscous fluid. But by the third track, "Final Frontier", it's clear that this is the only trick Reed has up his sleeve. Every one of these five soundscapes sounds essentially the same and even after listening to the album many times, listeners will be hard-pressed to identify one track from the next. "Gyres" leaves out most of the highest tones, while "Bestowal" pumps up the dissonance a bit, but it's not enough to make any one chunk stand out from the next.

Essentially The Helix sounds like one big 35-minute experiment in dark sound collages. And the novelty wears off after about 10 to 12 minutes, so either Envenomist intended this as a full-length album piece, or he thought the tracks would stand on its own. Either way, there isn't enough here to keep things interesting for the length of the album, which is too bad because Envenomist has the potential to be something quite exciting. It leaves you wishing David Nathan Reed had changed things up a bit throughout the course of the album. This is possibly the pitfall of having your hand in too many projects at once. You tend to compartmentalize your ideas to the point where the music within one project sounds too similar because you're saving ideas for another project.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.