Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unleft - Helios


Unseen Records.

SCQ Rating: 73%

Of home-listening electronica’s many sentinels, few possess Helios’ reputation for well-rounded instrumental songwriting on a track-by-track basis. Never satisfied with segue noodling or left-turns that derail a song’s momentum, Helios (Keith Kenniff) ensures that each composition is self-sustaining, pillared by its ominous progressions and founded on his knack for gravitas. On one hand, this flawless approach to songwriting has threatened to defang his LP work, rendering each track a predictable cousin to a previously recorded shade of melancholy. And although 2008’s Caesura adequately proved this notion false – or, at least, testified to Kenniff’s ability to write a moving full-length – no one was expecting Kenniff to bail on his tonal palette and surprise his listeners with an unexpected shift.

For fans of Helios who encourage his vigilant respect for full-lengths but wish his albums didn’t suffer from too much aesthetic forethought, Unleft will find a cushy spot on your record-rotation mantle. As a collection of orphaned tracks recorded between 2000 and 2009, Unleft celebrates the subtle variety within Helios’ catalog by touring through his secretive playbook. A warped guitar that buzzes behind ‘Cross the Ocean’ gets drowned-out by echoed piano bits and an unflinching breakbeat, whereas ‘Friedel’ goes minimalist with one slow-motion build of ambient keys that blows open. It’s refreshing to hear Kenniff ease back on his perfectionist tendencies, letting ‘Every Hair On Your Head’ wash delicately across its four-minute run-time without menacing the aura. The odd track even sounds indifferent because Kenniff hasn’t unprovoked it to move mountains but any fan of Helios should come to love airy breaths of solitude like ‘The Jaguar Sun’ for what they are.

Granted, only a few cuts here rival the heart-wrenching drama of Caesura or Eingya but, having sequenced Unleft no differently than those proper albums, Helios weaves his crunchy organic beats and restrained keys through the usual emotional gamut. With the production still top-notch and melodies deserving of the Helios canon, Kenniff has delivered a sweet stop-gap release no fan should overlook.

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