Helvetia | The Acrobats (The Static Cult)

cd_helvetia.jpgJason Albertini is not just wanking around on the various instruments he plays; he digs the sounds, and he captures that affection, attentively, excitedly, creatively.







If a friend or a music writer tells you that a certain album is "cool," it doesn’t really convey much, does it? You know that they like it, but "cool" is hardly a descriptive word. So when I say that the Seattle-based Helvetia’s second album, The Acrobats, is totally cool, I want to explain why…especially because I don’t use that word very often.

It’s cool because Helvetia mastermind Jason Albertini is obviously in love with music. He’s not just wanking around on the various instruments he plays (guitar, organ, drums and bass); he digs the sounds, and he captures that affection, attentively, excitedly, creatively. Albertini probably has a big record collection, but he’s not an imitator; he’s blazing his own trail, and that means the guitars, the drums and the arrangements have a special signature. "Harbored" is a damn fine modern guitar-based rocker, but I can’t immediately say "it sounds like Band X." I can tell you, though, that the guitars are fiery and throbbing with vitality, and the vocal is just moody enough to complement that electric sound.

The disc is cool because Albertini has the panache to double-track the high vocal on "Honest Gods" with an even higher falsetto, putting the creative juju here way beyond the ability of most indie types. It’s cool because it recognizes the value of focused discordance, epitomized on the awesome "Blasting Carolina." This fantastic slab of sonic sexiness smooshes together two very different parts, one a Sonic Youth-like guitar clanger with curiously contrasting folksy harmonies, the other a Flaming Lips-flavored bit of stately dream pop that another band would’ve made a different song completely. But how cool that these guys didn’t!

The cool-o-meter really hits the high level, though, starting with track 7, "Watermelon Sugar." This one is all guitar and drums, with just snatches of vocals that you can’t really make out. But no matter; there’s a refreshingly bright groove here, of the organic bedroom muse variety. Albertini gets big bonus points for his inventive drumming (emphasizing the upbeat on the latter half of the track in a way that’s simply transcendent; only someone in the zone creatively would play the drums like this). "Summer" follows, and it’s a bracing mid-tempo rocker that’s, well, cool. Really cool. The strings bend gloriously, the drumming is again flawless, and there’s even a dash of sweet female background vocals (from Tara DerYeghiayan) to top it off.

Albertini plays just about every instrument on this track, so he gets full credit for its pure delightfulness. There are so many other examples to cite: the song "Hit the Sauce" sounds like the "sauce" in question is some rare music seasoning that makes the gently psychedelic, reverbed vocals and evocative arrangement (with a perfectly economical burst of fuzzed-up lead guitar) far tastier than they would be in lesser hands. And the combination of shimmering organ, perfect drums and endearingly shy vocals on "The Outs" (all, remarkably, Albertini’s work) blissed me out, totally.

Helvetia have truly hit the mark on The Acrobats; they’ve made a record that’s consistent, full of little surprises, and never less than wide-eyed, creatively. It sounds like they had a great time, capturing a breezy liveliness on this disc that carries over to the listener. And what could be cooler than that? A | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, Comets on Fire

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