Helios – Yume (Unseen Music, 2015)


Summer has now drawn to a close; almost as if by magic the days seem to be getting crisper and chillier following the equinox, the trees knowingly on the turn already and the nights creeping back a few extra hours, and with all of these organic pattern shifts comes the wave of post-Summer records that break the holiday lull, the reflective and glowing records that probably should have come out 2 months ago but get to seem nostalgic and wistful now. As such, Keith Kenniff returns once more to his long running Helios project with Yume, or “dream” in Japanese, another record circling the fringes of Post-Rock and downtempo acoustic Ambient and, once again, another very palatable and emotive record.

Interestingly Yume seems to live in that strange and active hinterland between past memory and present happening; certainly opener “Every Passing Hour” seems to find itself drifting along slowly on its own path, acoustic pleasantries in the guitar and piano lines paving a gauzy atmosphere that politely ambles along, satisfied to maintain some sense of momentary fragility in its meandering sequences, drinking it all in for future consumption. The active percussion and strong Post-Rock undercurrents of “Pearls” seems to find some sense of active and present self too, swirling in empowering drum slaps and untethered synths before sinking into glittering and lively acoustic excitations, these fresh happenings glittering in our eyes and inflating the spirits. Indeed, despite the Boards of Canada reminiscences in the title track with its warped radio fragment sounds and oscillating synths lines, it feels very much alive and happening, its reality strong and clear as fresh potential memories come tumbling out of the constantly evolving music.

It certainly feels real but all is not as it appears to be here, with many of the other tracks really living up to the theme and sinking themselves into the ethereal past; “It Was Warmer Then” is the first to nod suggestively at the retrospective aspects at play here: the synths distant and reclusive, the piano reflective in its light reverb, the music sounding crystalline and frozen in time and space, caught in perfect remembrance but still exuding their original warmth in the Tycho-esque synth croons. It deepens significantly in my favourite track of the record “Sonora Lac”, this time even the beats finding themselves submerged and lost, the guitars hovering around their tympany like a light mist through which we tread carefully. It doesn’t last long though as it burns away to find the bright, jovial core hidden beneath the sad fugue of time that separates its original beautiful moment from us here and now.

The same maudlin constructions find their way into the remaining pieces also, although the record does remain nicely and surprisingly diverse in its sound even as it retreads ground; the beautiful “Skies Minus” finds itself drawing heavily on the guitar to craft its lonely introspections, suspended in quiet drone curtains before the pianos supercede them and take over the fragile sanctity here, lovingly preserving this instant through various means of demonstration, with “Sing The Same Song Twice” attempting something similar in its transient guitar pickings that make their way into mirages of synth riffs and piano tinklings, eagerly reliving and preserving this wonderfully intimate and romantic moment. And I love the closing act of “Embrace” to round it off too, just this sumptuous drone track that radiates these lush waves of tender bliss, its slow migrations savouring these precious final few moments of contact regardless of its happening in the physical world or the dream one.

Whether Yume lives as though lost in its own little dreamscape or tumbling out as some combination of fresh experiences and memory is a question for each listener to answer for themselves, but I like the fact that Helios seems to be on the edge, understanding the need to be there in the moment to preserve it for future enjoyment and that nostalgia shouldn’t be met with a feeling of loss or sadness simply because they have passed; we need to cherish the fact that, even if only for a short time, everything was happy and perfect.