Thursday, May 3, 2012

Album Review: Helios - Moiety

Album Rating: C-
I think it’s evident now that Keith Kenniff, the man behind Helios, is rather good at making beautiful music. Since his debut in 2004 he has consistently sculpted the kind of distilled, crystalline ambience that quietly refuses to be attached to any particular emotion. Indeed, this purity has been the defining factor in separating him from any like-minded contemporaries. There are no fractured shifts of confusion here; nor pitiful wails; and apart from a predominant strain of optimism there are rarely any outstandingly happy moments either. It’s unburdened serenity, and in the past eight years he has not faltered from this peaceful, detached vision. One could easily argue that it’s this weight of humanity that matters, sure, but so far it seems that Helios has managed fine, regardless. Whichever way you look at it, Moiety offers more of what we have come to expect. Except it feels just that little bit too detached; too lifeless.

With its familiar swells of ambience topped off with muted piano, Moiety remains quite transparent in its approach. Little is left to the imagination, even after the very first listen, and whilst the subtle flickers in static lie in wait for listeners more patient, there’s no surprise lying in wait or slow unveiling of truth. It’s a little by-the-numbers and even, dare I say it, slightly dull - in vision at least - but this has never really prevented Helios’ previous works from succeeding. In fact, their ability to hold your attention even by fairly conventional means was one of their most surprising strengths; begging the question: “Why doesn’t this?”

Perhaps nothing has changed and Helios has simply produced music in the same strain for just long enough to get on the nerves of a reviewer made cynical with repetition? Or maybe, and rather more likely, Moiety is simply so purified that it’s lost any form of personality it may otherwise have had. In short, it’s sterile; an estate agent’s show room: perfect if not for the fact it hasn’t been lived in. It’s always been a key motif for me that an album can never truly succeed unless it leaves some emotional sediment in its wake, otherwise the most beautiful sounds in the world can wash over us but ultimately leave us unchanged. Never is this more true than with Moiety. It’s universally beautiful, but even so it fails to leave any kind of lasting impression.

As discussed previously, little saving grace can be found in the composition. If anything, in fact, Helios seems to have backed away from the lush depth of instrumentation that once made him such a treat to listen to. In its place is a palette of instruments and effects well-used by countless numbers of ambient and post-rock musicians alike. Likewise, the album remains stagnant in its duration: with most tracks lapsing into a limited spectrum, which is not especially surprising given his consistently restrained style. It’s sad to think that if Helios had not been so restrained then Moiety may have been a much more interesting album. That’s just the way it goes, I guess: beauty is boring.

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1. Nothing It Can
2. Your Zenith
3. In Everything Was Given
4. Nature People
5. Bold Advances
6. Equal Ourselves
7. Ours Everyday
8. Ideas or Hopes

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