Infinite Shuffle

January 23, 2011

60 – The Helio Sequence

Filed under: H, Portland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Bands alter their sound all the time, whether it be to gain a bigger audience, because of personnel changes or simply the natural evolution of their music.

The Helio Sequence didn’t really have any say in the matter. The need to make a transition was thrust upon them when lead singer Brandon Summers lost his voice and was forced to learn how to sing again.

Following the 2004 release of their third full-length album, Love and Distance, the band embarked on a six-month tour of the United States and Europe during which Summers’ vocal chords became severely shredded, forcing him into long stretches of silence.

Upon returning to Portland, Summers’ doctor forbade him from singing for almost two months. The result was a person newly dedicated to his health and an artist more intensely focused on his craft.

That passion came out in the band’s next release, 2008’s Keep Your Eyes Ahead. Where the group’s arsenal had previously been filled with long, trippy songs coated in equal parts pop, psychedelia and electronica, a new sound emerged with tighter, more radio-friendly tracks.

The Helio Sequence – Can’t Say No

The Helio Sequence is one of those bands that are hard to pigeon-hole, but the best label currently for their ever-evolving sound might be indie electro-pop with a slight tinge of folk.

The band’s shift actually began on Love and Distance. On its first two albums, Com Plex (2000) and Young Effectuals (2001), the duo relied more on shoegaze and twee pop and some of the fuzz rock of My Bloody Valentine.

But on the third album, the boys from Beaverton (it’s a suburb of Portland), started to rein things in and even incorporated a harmonica on several tracks, including the aptly titled opener, “Harmonica Song”. With that song, and a few others, they add a new bluesy dimension to their sound that is reminiscent of My Morning Jacket.

The Helio Sequence – Harmonica Song

On the latest album, they crank up the beats and take everything to the next level. The disc opens strong with “Lately”, followed by their best track to date, the above-posted “Can’t Say No”.

Other solid offerings include the title track, “Hallelujah” and “You Can Come To Me”.

The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

The Helio Sequence channels several influences into this album, including Bob Dylan (on “Shed Your Love” and “Broken Afternoon”) and Modest Mouse (on “Back To This” and “The Captive Mind”). The latter is not surprising considering Weikel did double duty a few years ago, playing drums and keyboards for Modest Mouse for a brief stint in 2003-2004.

For a band that is composed of just two guys and their laptop, they can really bring it in a live setting. I was lucky enough to see them open the five-day “Tomorrow Never Knows” festival at Lincoln Hall in Chicago earlier this month.

They actually opened the set with their biggest hit, “Can’t Say No”, which I thought was quite uncommon. But it definitely helped invigorate those in attendance — many of whom had been there for several hours and were forced to sit/stand through a couple of dreamy bands that were doing their darndest to lull us to sleep (that excludes the awesome first opener California Wives).

From the opening song all the way until the end, I don’t think my toe ever stopped tapping. Much of that can be attributed to Weikel, who certainly was into the music himself.

Plenty of drummers do some weird things while behind their kits, but Weikel’s facial contortions might’ve been the most jarring I’ve ever witnessed. An apt comparison I read online was to that of Animal from Muppet Babies.

A couple other things I noted from their concert was that they had just a one-song encore, which is rare in my experience — it seems like two songs is the agreed-upon minimum.

Also, the festival was called “Tomorrow Never Knows” and The Helio Sequence have a song on its first album with the same title. However, I don’t remember them ever actually acknowledging that fact. Then again, they may have played it and I never would’ve noticed.

But I digress.

It’s been nearly three years since the group’s last full-length release, and judging from their track record, it could still be another year before we get anything more substantive than the split 7-inch it put out with Menomena for Record Store Day last year.

In the meantime, check out The Helio Sequence on MySpace or on their page at Sub Pup Records.



  1. […] wasn’t sure if I’d ever hear a new Helio Sequence album again. Not because I thought they were breaking up. It had been awhile since their last […]

    Pingback by Updates — All good, none great « Infinite Shuffle — October 2, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  2. […] Even though their music wasn’t for everyone, MBV had clearly opened a new world on the music landscape and basically invented the shoegaze genre. And they helped influence a slew of bands that have come out since — including more modern ones, such as Yuck, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Radio Dept. and The Helio Sequence. […]

    Pingback by 151 – My Bloody Valentine | Infinite Shuffle — March 20, 2013 @ 1:15 am

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