Release Date: Sep 16, 2016
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Heavy Metal, Experimental Rock, Neo-Classical Metal, Neo-Classical
LA-based cellist Alison Chesley (aka Helen Money) has previously worked with artists such as Bob Mould, Russian Circles and Mono, and here returns with her fourth solo album. Become Zero was written following the death of Chesley’s parents; unsurprisingly the album is an intensely personal work. A sonic navigation through the emotional landscape of loss, it is also an attempt to come to terms with mortality.
Helen Money is the solo project of Alison Chesley, a Los Angeles-based cellist and composer who formed alternative rock band Verbow in the mid-'90s and has since appeared on well over 100 recordings as a session musician. Most of her track record consists of indie rock, punk, and metal albums rather than modern classical works, and it's not hard to hear why, as her intense, effects-heavy cello playing can sometimes be mistaken for a distorted electric guitar. Following three solo albums and a 2015 collaboration with former Swans vocalist Jarboe, Become Zero is the first Helen Money album to be released by Chicago's well-respected Thrill Jockey Records, but it isn't Chesley's first appearance on the label, as she contributed to albums by the Sea and Cake and their guitarist, Archer Prewitt, during the early 2000s.
To be labeled a metal cellist sounds nothing more than a lazy novelty misnomer, a play on words that hangs nicely even if the oxymoron rings far from true. Helen Money (AKA Alison Chesley) has used her artistry, if not to traverse the black waves of heavy metal, to explore the darkest recesses of the rock psyche. Her work fleshing out the music of Bob Mould, Steve Albini, Dylan Carlson and Jason Roeder has rendered already apocalyptic visions with an injured yet hedonistic hue; a menacing yet naturalist beauty like charged chain lightning.
Helen Money — Become Zero (Thrill Jockey)Become Zero by Helen MoneyPhoto by Travis McCoyHelen Money is, or should be, everyone’s favorite metal/avant-garde cellist. And if that sounds like a gimmicky label for the artist also known as Alison Chesley, it isn’t meant to be. She’s spent 20 years performing and composing diverse styles of music, from alt-rock to indie to classical to doom metal.
Cellist Alison Chesley uses her instrument less as a background or harmony player, or a conveyance of classical technique, than as an emotional weapon. Her work as Helen Money allows her to dig deep, literally and figuratively, into her axe’s possibilities, pushing its ability to drone and distort to its limit in service of her self-expression. Become Zero, recorded after both her parents died, finds her traversing the cello’s entire range.