I must admit this post-rock quintet hailing from Leeds have never surfaced on my musical radar before. Helioscope is the second full length release from the lads since forming in 2005, the first incarnation being White Fields And Open Devices back in 2007.
Helioscope is mainly an instrumental affair, with certain elements not sounding too unfamiliar to fellow post-rock progressive peers such as Glasgow’s Remember Remember with their progressive looping time signatures, or Texas’ Explosions In The Sky with their epic, swirling guitar riddled crescendos. All the post-rock trademarks you’d come to expect are here with most tracks building up and escalating into layer upon layer of feedback infused guitars, droning in the background with persistently crashing drums like a wall of sound coming tumbling down on you, (see opening track “Monoform”).
The record is relatively heavy – but not so much in a Mogwai way; more along the lines of some sort of metal band you might have listened to growing up whilst still discovering your musical preference. One of my criticisms would be the over use of power chords, normally in the climatic stages of a song, such as “Art/Choke” or “The Trap”. The addition of this sound doesn’t do justice to the prelude we’ve been sitting through and ultimately builds up towards a disappointing end, like the musical equivalent to Lost.
When the sparsely used vocals do come into play, they sound incredibly polished and add a refreshing counter balance to the music. “Recur” for example displays some vocal talent and shows the boys can clearly hold a note and harmonise together, like The Beach Boys met 65daysofstatic for a jam. A collaboration with solo artist Stuart Warwick on “Meatman, Piano Turner, Prostitute” adds some welcome variety to the album, offering some delicate, haunting vocals to accompany the atmospheric synths and intricate drumming.
I’ve had to revisit the album a couple of times in order to form a bond with it, and I’m pleased to say I’ve been able to see through the obvious influences and appreciate the album for what it is – a well crafted, post-rock record which occasionally reaches epic heights. Whilst it doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table, it adds another positive notch in the bedpost of the genre.
Words: Neil Phillips