PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Helio Sequence: Young Effectuals

Jason Thompson

The Helio Sequence

Young Effectuals

Label: Cavity Search
US Release Date: 2001-10-09

Here's my best case against the pompous crust that is known as Radiohead. I ask myself from time to time if people would actually enjoy such ridiculous albums as Amneisiac if the hype wasn't already built in. It's hard to imagine the band getting a bad review anymore. Or at least one that would actually resound with the masses. Ever since OK Computer was unleashed, we have been led to believe that Thom Yorke and pals are the Second Coming and are here to rightfully save rock with something completely "new" called post rock.

But how do you save rock with something so utterly pretentious?

I'm not at all against sitting down and have to actually listen to an album. I'm quite fine with that, really, as that's how I often enjoy my music. But I'm also not into jumping on any bandwagon for a band that I find terribly boring. Why praise a group just because all the other critics can't get enough of falling all over themselves for some music that goes farther around the bend every year? It's funny, because I can think of a number of groups that would get blasted for trying to do the same thing. "Oh, they're just trying to copy Radiohead", they'd say. As if Radiohead was the be all, end all of post rock (whatever the fuck that actually is; I think it's just a hip term for what actually became the deceased "alternative" rock). God forbid anyone else try to claim some turf in the genre as well.

Oh, but someone has, kids. So put all your new fangled blinking teddy bear heads away and take notice of The Helio Sequence from Portland, Oregon. Comprised of only Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel (I knew you didn't need that extra guy in your post rock group to crouch on the floor pushing guitar pedals . . . yeesh), The Helio Sequence creates a brand of post crunch that Radiohead could never be bothered with: post rock with a definite beat (the horror!)

In fact, Brandon and Benjamin seem to have a little message for all the Radio fans out there. "I'm not part of your little scene / 'Cause I don't read your magazines / And we don't play your fashion shows / We don't wear your pretty clothes". This is just a sample from the bite that explodes out of "[square] bubbles". The music is bombastic and dense, but you can also dance to it, Dick. The drums sound larger than life, and Benjamin's keyboards squiggle and shatter all over the mix. The Helio Sequence is all about VOLUME. So this isn't something to weird out by and do a little navel gazing to. Brandon and Benjamin are here to shake you down.

On "Nothing's OK : Everything's Fine", tripped-out pianos parts duel with scattering drum beats as the white noise wash vents in the middle, conjuring up a melody that somehow shouldn't be there in theory, but is. "When will he have something to say? / When will he have someone to be?", asks Weikel as the "Will you find a way / Nothing's OK / Everything's fine / Losing your mind / See it all rhyme" chorus pops out, injecting the dynamic hook of the song into your bloodstream. Catchy? Ah yes, something Radiohead ceased to be after The Bends.

The density of The Helio Sequence's sound is not too unlike that of Mercury Rev's on their first album Yerself Is Steem. So, if you remember that, then you'll have a little idea of where this band is going, even though they are ten steps ahead of even the Rev. It's hard to exactly pinpoint just what is going on in the mix. Summers' guitar gets that ungodly sheet of noise thing going on that Husker Du used to employ at the drop of a hat. That, combined with Weikel's surreal keyboard work that always finds a melody through its cacophony makes for a bizarre, yet thoroughly captivating sound. It's the kind of thing that makes "Kablerium Vs. Obliviousity" stand out immediately, as the chants of "Workin' 9 to 5 / Workin' 9 to 5 / 20 hours a day" get strangled in the mix. Or are the vocals doing the strangling? Whatever the case, it's infinitely fascinating to hear the production swirl and cave in on itself relentlessly over and over, with just a spot of light escaping through every time to start the cycle over again. Even on "lighter" fare like "The Echo-Blomp" seems to exist in a musical wind tunnel that both blasts and pulls the listener in to its furious wake.

Young Effectuals is certainly one to sit down and listen to. Doing so reveals the different threads in the mix. Just when you think you've "heard that song", you can listen again and something strange and different pops out at you again, revealing the craft that went into this album. So as far as "post rock" goes for me, I'll take The Helio Sequence any day. After all, if you're actually going to save rock and roll, you might as well bring the beats and the guitars that can still manage to move your butt when necessary. After all, why eschew the two main ingredients for good ol' rock 'n' roll when it's time to bring it back?

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.