The Bowery Ballroom
The Helio Sequence

The Helio Sequence

Ramona Falls, Slowdance

Thu, November 15, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

$15 advance / $17 day of show

This event is 18 and over

The Helio Sequence
The Helio Sequence
The self-titled sixth album by The Helio Sequence began with a friendly competition. Several of the duo’s friends within the Portland, Oregon music scene had been playing “The 20-Song Game.” The rules were simple, playful and ambitious: Songwriters would arrive in their studios at prearranged times and spend all day recording 20 complete songs. When they were finished, they’d have a party, listen to the results and talk about the process—of taking the good with the bad, of letting creativity push past constraint, of simply making music in the moment. Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel took the spirit of the “The 20-Song Game” to heart, and forged ahead writing a new record.

“Negotiations was a very long, introspective process,” remembers Summers of the band’s 2012 Sub Pop LP. “We shut ourselves off from the world and disappeared down the rabbit hole. That’s how we tend to work, but we wanted to try something new, open and immediate.”

In a sense, The Helio Sequence had spent their whole career preparing for this record. They’d sunk entire recording advances into studio purchases, collaborating with local engineers to build custom gear and a space where they could blend high fidelity with kaleidoscopic sound. In 2013, the pair took on their first full-scale production project, the Brazilian rock band Quarto Negro, after the group inquired about their space and availability through Facebook. As producers, they’d remixed Shabazz Palaces, picked up mixing sessions with Portland acts and earned representation from Global Positioning Services. Summers and Weikel discovered just how adaptable and powerful their studio could be.

In May of 2014, inspired by the “20-Song Game”, they began arriving each morning in their Portland space—housed in the cafeteria and break room of an old warehouse— with the mission of making as much music as possible in one month. They began exploring and capturing, recording guitar riffs and keyboard loops, drum patterns and bass lines. One piece documented, they quickly advanced to the next idea. Summers and Weikel didn’t discuss what they were making or the reference points that informed it, though such discussions had once been central to The Helio Sequence’s more self-conscious process. They just played. Created. In time, they returned to each fragment, broadcasting it over the studio PA, jamming and recording the results. Mistakes didn’t matter, and second chances didn’t exist. After two weeks, Summers and Weikel began cutting those loose takes into rough shapes, steadily building songs from their cavalier sketches.

Although making records can be a laborious and tedious process, Summers delights in the memory of making this one.

“We were coming to the studio on these sunny mornings everyday with an open mind,” Summers shares. “We said, ‘I’m just going to do what feels good in the moment.”

“We worked so quickly that there was a running optimism,” he continues. “There’s this sense of striving for perfection where you can actually take momentum away. But we wanted this record to be momentum in and of itself.”

When June arrived, the duo gathered their 26 finished songs and sent them to 31 friends, fans and family members. They asked each person to rank their 10 favorite tracks. By summer’s end, they had arrived at the brisk 10 tracks that shape the breathless and magnetic The Helio Sequence—a record so named because it’s a kind of clean restart for the longtime pair, a revamp of their process and a revitalization of their results.

The Helio Sequence is a renewed push forward for the band: From the cool wallop of “Deuces,” where guitars snarl and harmonies soar, to the stuttering anxiety of “Upward Mobility”, where pianos pound and drums race, this collection depends upon an effortless kinetic energy. Lyrically, “Stoic Resemblance” is a study of existential anxiety, but musically, it’s a beguiling burst of pop, Summers’ vocals rising over and sliding off of Weikel’s big, irrepressible beat. The bittersweet “Leave or Be Yours” evokes the easy twinkle of romance and the smoldering sadness of losing it. Crisscrossing vocals and cross-talking guitars and drums map a broad swirl of emotions.

With its easy acoustic jangle, “Inconsequential Ties” might be one of the most surprising, light moments within the bombastic Helio Sequence catalog. But considered within the band’s history, it points to the pop that’s bound Summers and Weikel for so long. Indeed, there’s a delightful candor to The Helio Sequence, an openness that is a rare and special feat for a band about to enter its third decade.

“It’s less about curating yourself or trying to put yourself across how you want to be perceived,” says Summers. “It’s about having a conversation with people and giving them something that’s who you are.”
Ramona Falls
Ramona Falls
Like most of us, Brent Knopf watches a lot of YouTube videos, only he’s not watching kittens playing piano. Rather, his tastes err on the more experimental side of things—like people who attempt perpetual motion machines using magnets. “I love that they’re trying to harness an endless supply of energy,” says the Ramona Falls frontman, “and that they go against conventional wisdom in the hopes of true discovery.”

Which is exactly what Knopf did last year, when he decided to quit the acclaimed art rock trio Menomena and devote his time to one epic, personal vision. Prophet, the second Ramona Falls album, is sonically, lyrically and thematically brighter. It’s also more organic and personal than anything he ever contributed to Menomena, or as the singer/multi-instrumentalist explains, “it’s more of a rapid transit line between my sleeve and my heart.”

“With Ramona Falls I am exploring what I stand for which makes it more personal to me,” Knopf admits. “I’m less worried now about being made fun of, than I was before. I can now say things I believe in, and some people may think it’s stupid or cheesy…but that’s kind of fun. I would much rather speak from the heart than hide behind impenetrable obfuscation.”

Recorded with bandmates Paul Alcott (drums, and also, ironically, Knopf’s replacement in Menomena), Matt Sheehy (guitar), and Dave Lowensohn (bass) and featuring guest appearances by four other friends, the stunning album begins with “Bodies of Water,” an emotive and rousing anthem about how intimacy bundles together both nourishment and peril. “Spore,” a heartfelt highlight of Prophetbears a substantive core: “I like the idea of someone refusing to feel lonely, despite how utterly alone they might actually be,” Knopf explains. “It’s a form of rebellion.” But the 11 tracks are not all exercises in introspective fragility; “Brevony” is Knopf’s most unleashed moment with gnarling guitars ambushing the listener at the chorus on all sides.

Prophet, the album’s title, is an homage to Knopf’s religious upbringing, a titular reference to a worldview that reveres exalted seers who assert meaning despite the chaos. But as the newly empowered songwriter has discovered with Ramona Falls, it’s a better strategy to embrace the chaos. And then refashion it into a beautiful noise.
Slowdance
Slowdance
Slowdance bring keyboard and guitar and a rhythm section that can flip from a new wave throb to a spaghetti western rumble as easily as it delivers punchy indie-pop, all anchored by vocalist Quay Quinn-Settel's demure cheek and soprano dramatics. She recalled France Gall, and they did Stereolab, because language still counts (even the set-closing cover of New Order's "Consent" was not without its tie to France). Says Quinn-Settel: "I learned how to read in French before learning in English. It's half of me, it wouldn't feel right to sing in English alone. Plus the way the language shapes the mouth changes the timber of my voice, so it's nice to have both."

Other formative reference points Slowdance cite include Blondie, the Raincoats, and '70s synthwave, which help contextualize the tracks here for you to sample (the spaghetti-soaked "Spell," the coy "Sweetness," "Slashed Tires"' airy angst). Those are below, along with a mixtape playlist we asked the band to compile as the perfect primer to the aesthetic of Slowdance. Dig in. - Stereogum
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/