Portland’s Helvetia (pronounced hell-vee-shuh) is difficult to pinpoint or pigeonhole. Their music is skittish and
jolting and almost always nervously shifting between tempos and styles. Some songs, like the opener “Bermuda,” owe a great deal to the influence of Stephen Malkmus, while others, like “Pink Finish,” fit neatly alongside contemporary psych-rockers like Comets on Fire of the Black Angels.
While the group is comprised of a couple of members of Built to Spill, Helvetia lacks BTS’s sense of melody, and it is obvious throughout that they lack a capable lyricist. The lack of continuous melody lines or hooks is sometimes distracting, and the groups psychedelic pretensions are sometimes overburdening and messy. When it all comes together, however, the results are oddly entrancing.
“A Dot for the Dusting” probably contains the album’s best hook, as singer Jason Albertini’s dreamily distorted vocals float over the top of Dave Amber’s persistent ride cymbal. “Shower Radio” is stylistically similar and has a bouncy guitar line that dances in-between the distorted guitars and piano. The album’s title track is perhaps its most intriguing. The song constantly hints at a steady tempo and melodic hook, but the psychedelic guitars always interject themselves to cancel out any predictability, and the song nearly explodes into a screeching howl of guitars towards the end. The album’s closer, “Feeling the Warm Air” is the closest thing this album has to a single. Its breezy rhythm recalls Real Estate by way of Pavement and makes for a satisfying conclusion to an album that, up to that point, had never been able to settle on a consistent sound.
Helvetia might want to eventually figure out what type of band it wants to be, but until then, we’ll have to learn to appreciate all of the disparate fragments of sound that it scatters for us.
Recommended If You Like: Pavement, The Black Angels, Ty Segall, White Fence
Do Not Play: 7 (Psychomagic)
Recommended Tracks: 3 (A Dot Running for the Dust), 9 (Olaf), 12 (Feeling the Warm Hair), 6 (Shower Radio), 1 (Bermuda), 11 (Dromomania)