• John Van de Mergel

Sounds | Helms Alee, Tripping Up The Stairs


Beukende drums, distorted gitaren en schreeuwerige vocals vormen de basis voor een pakkend nummer van dit drietal uit Seattle. Hun sound kan je misschien best omschrijven als hypnotiserende sludge, maar het gaat een pak ruimer dan dit en er wordt serieus buiten de lijntjes gekleurd.


Keep This Be The Way verschijnt op 29 april 2022 via Sargent House

Luister ook naar: See Sights Smell Smells

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An Apocalypse Now meets Swamp Thing styled video focused on the concept of control. The director Ron Harrell notes:

"The idea that I wanted to convey when we set out filming the video was an uncomplicated yet visually compelling version of finding said control. To me it became as simple as floating at sea and finding sure footing on land. Helms Alee has a pretty hydrous identity as it is, so incorporating that part came naturally. I had an initial cut of the video that was a little cleaner and realistic, visually speaking. The band saw it and, what I heard them say was “that’s great, now fuck it up”. So I fucked it up and this is the result."

On the collaboration, the band says:

"Ron Harrell is one of our dearest friends, so it felt very easy and natural to be directed into vulnerable states by him. Having been by our side through most of the creation of our latest record via assisting with engineering, contributing thoughts and ideas, and generally being a friend to us, it made perfect sense to collaborate with him in this format. Photography and videography are natural ways that Ron expresses his love of life. That is made clear by the visual beauty of this video. He took a complicated feeling and created a weird fever dreamscape story to express that feeling. He applied his empathetic nature to incorporate the feelings/needs of the band while sculpting a story only he knew how to tell."


Across the span of their first five studio albums, the trio zeroed in on different aspects of their sound - a blend of lilting siren songs, crushing Northwest thunder and sludge, angular econo-rock, and heady guitar pop while retaining their no-frills, meat-and-potatoes approach in the studio. But with this Helms Alee have expanded their palette by delving into the production possibilities afforded by recording the album themselves, creating their most dynamic and technicolored work to date. This new approach is immediately evident on first single and album opener “See Sights Smell Smells,” where reverse cymbal crashes, fragmented piano, layered drums, woozy drones, saxophone freak-outs, and trippy vocal treatments transport the listener to an altered state of exhilarated anticipation. The song is accompanied by a video created by Allen Watke whose video art consists primarily of analog equipment with an emphasis on VHS dubbing, glitching & manipulation.

When the pandemic hit, guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen, bassist/vocalist Dana James, and drummer/vocalist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis found refuge in their music and bunkered down in a makeshift studio in Verellen’s amplifier shop. Through the remainder of 2020 and into early 2021, the band wrote an album as a distraction from the surrounding turbulence, recording songs with the assistance of Ron Harrell as they were writing them, composing the material with the added benefit of hearing them come together from the engineer’s chair.

Keep This Be the Way still very much sounds like a Helms Alee record, but it’s their first album that diverts from the faithful recreation of their live sound and delves into a vibrant tapestry of surreal sounds and invented spaces.


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