The last thing I would have predicted about The Helio Sequence from their fifth studio album “Negotiations” is that the band is a duo. Throughout the album, track after track, the music sounds full, complex, and strong. It would be easier to comprehend ten people working together to record such full-bodied music than just the two who actually created it, a respectable and impressive feat.
While mainly an indie rock group, The Helio Sequence experimented more with synth and distortion effects on this album, describing the record as “warmer, more organic and more spacey/ethereal” than their previous work. If success were measured purely on how accurately a band explains their sound, The Helio Sequence would have hit it out of the park. “Open Letter” is an ambient, resonant ballad that utilizes heavy reverb and percussion to create a track that sounds like it’s being transmitted through a body of water or, more applicably, outer space. While the song clearly achieves the band’s goals, its overly produced presentation completely overshadows every other aspect of the track, leaving the lyrics, raw instrumentation and vocals as throwaways.
While at times successful, The Helio Sequence’s foray into more ethereal, ambient effects more often than not serves as a hindrance, putting attention on the production and staging instead of the raw musicality and talent. Arguably the catchiest song on the album, “October,” finds success in its combination of a punchy, anthemic chorus and intense, emotional verses. It, coincidentally or not, leaves behind overly showy, involved distortion and production techniques. “One More Time” also chose to focus on more traditional rock skills: heavy rhythm guitar, strong drum beat, powerful vocals. It’s clean, polished indie rock.
These two tracks open the album, setting the audience up for a very different album and listening experience than what is actually presented. Not to say that “Negotiations” should be considered disappointing or a failure; as a whole, the album is entertaining and skillful. Though not entirely triumphant, the band should be commended for branching out from what is accepted, what is expected.
Tags: natalie howard, Reviews, THE HELIO SEQUENCE, The Helio Sequence - Negotiations, The Helio Sequence - Negotiations album review