Over the years, Portland-based duo The Helio Sequence has been carefully molding its approach, softening and smoothing from its electric-psychedelic beginnings and incorporating more dream-pop influences (along with some folksy leanings). On this, the band’s long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s Keep Your Eyes Ahead, vocalist-guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer-keyboardist Benjamin Weikel are at their most ethereal. Album opener “One More Time” sets up the spacious feel on Negotiations, and it’s as if each bit of wistful reverb stretches out into infinity.
Sometimes the most beautiful things rise from the ashes of destruction. This was the case for Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel. The duo, who has been playing music together under the moniker The Helio Sequence since 1996, received some bad news while on tour for their acclaimed album, Keep Your Eyes Ahead. A flood had destroyed their studio/practice space, taking a good amount of the two-piece’s gear along with it.
It’s been over a decade since Oregonians Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel teamed up to form The Helio Sequence. The duo’s latest, Negotiations, is the group’s first in four years and offers a strong set of songs that fit almost more than comfortably together. Sonically lush and dripping with delayed guitars and tons of reverbed vocals, Negotiations is a exercise in consistency that many listeners will find incredibly rewarding.
Portland, Oregon's dreamy indie folk duo the Helio Sequence have built their discography on a series of somewhat unfortunate but ultimately sound-shaping external circumstances. Starting off with a focus on ambient soundscapes and buried vocals, the band's experimentation with bringing the vocals to the forefront for its yelpy 2004 album, Love and Distance, resulted in singer Brandon Summers damaging his vocal cords shouting the songs out night after night on tour. His bruised voice was reborn in a raspy Waits-meets-Dylan style, which informed the overarching indie folk feel of the band's 2008 breakthrough, Keep Your Eyes Ahead, and brought out its more somber, low-lit moments.
What the Helio Sequence once were isn't what they want to be anymore. On tour for 2004's so-so Love and Distance, the Portland widescreeners' Brandon Summers lost his voice, a rather unfortunate affliction for the vocalist of an indie rock band trying to make a go of it. Rather than pack it in, Summers went out, got healthy, and found himself a vocal coach to put him through the paces.
The fifth record from Oregon-based indie rock duo The Helio Sequence sees the pair take a step back: time to take stock, to reassess. It's their first release since 2008's Keep Your Eyes Ahead, the success of which seems to have allowed them the space, money, and confidence to facilitate this fresh outlook. .
Review Summary: Speak softly and carry a big stick.The Helio Sequence would no doubt say creativity makes for a fine crucible; few bands have had such bad (yet strangely fortuitous) luck in the course of their career since they debuted with 2000’s dreamy, ambient Com Plex. Yet it’s just that difficult road that led to the Portland two piece’s artistic high water mark, 2008’s lovely, deceptively anguished Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It was recorded mere months after vocalist Brandon Summers tore up his vocal cords and had to re-learn how to sing, leading the band onto the more organic folk route Negotiations now broadens into a wide open expanse.
According to the press release for The Helio Sequence’s latest effort, Negotiations, the album’s sound was shaped by nature itself. Back in 2009, their practice space was completely flooded thanks to some faulty pipes. Luckily, they were on tour at the time, so most of their good equipment was with them. The band found a new place with more room– specifically, more room for instruments– and filled the space with analog gear, including tape delays and tube amps.
Melt into the Helio Sequence's fifth offering. Opening with the chiming sway of "One More Time," which conjures the Walkmen's charmingly subdued moments, and the dramatic melodic build of "October," Negotiations develops spaciously, expanding with every song until it becomes enveloping. Brandon Summer's warm voice matches the dreamlike swirl of his guitar, while Benjamin Weikel provides a stern rhythmic backbone that booms with a deep subconscious calm.