With instrumental electronic music, often the most accessible composers lend themselves to a crude kind of criticism, one which writes off as facile anything that sounds too immediately "pretty." Keith Kenniff has such a stark emotional appeal to his songs that he's sometimes accused of tugging too hard on the listener's heartstrings whilst leaving the mind alone. But close listening reveals extremely intricate and complicated creations for all their surface appeal. Much like like-minded artists such as Eluvium, Kenniff doesn't play at such clear lyrical patterns without offering plenty of contemplative sidetracks for patient listeners.
After a piano-based album earlier this year on the always reliable Type label under his Goldmund alias, Kenniff returns to the Helios guise for his fourth album and first real successor to 2006's Eingya. Combining the instrumental post-rock of a Sigur Ros with more ambient shadings, Caesura finds Kenniff on the drums as well, and the extra rhythmic heft is one of the first alterations you'll notice. "Glimpse," for example, relies on its steady bass-drum knock for situational contrast; when the drums cut out, the track's patient synthesized coda benefits from that room-wide hush.
Despite this new emphasis, his ice floe cinematism is still as slow-shifting and melancholic as ever. Most wind around one of Kenniff's breathy guitar motifs, which crack or tremble in the tempos of unwatched surfaces, moving in the numb-time of a landscape watched only by nature itself. Kenniff's quietly cagey, dropping what sounds like an effortless hook one moment, only to recontextualize that same simple pattern in the next three. "Come with Nothings" weaves several guitar parts into a peppery drum-machine drop, an aspirant morning-glow that gains speed across its length like it can't wait to break the horizon. With guitars that echo so long they meld into drones and tommyknocker drums, standout "Fourteen Drawings" is much more dissolute and refracted for such stomp, while "Backlight" sounds like the múm of Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy, its childsight ambience held in place by a shaky, static-laced beat. "A Mountain of Ice," though, is Kenniff at his most bewitching. A smoggy, widescreen soundtrack of interlaced melodies, he plays its own delicacy against it initially, allowing it to dissolve two minutes in only to reconstruct it at greater weight, more volume. It's enough on first exposure to belie how much motion is left subsurface: a testament to Kenniff's tricky instantaneity, his sly nod to next spring in a melody as frozen and surface-bleached as winter.
Buy Helios - Caesura at
Tracklist: Helios - Caesura 01. Hope Valley Hill
02. Come with Nothings
04. Fourteen Drawings
06. The Red Truth
07. A Mountain of Ice
09. Shoulder to Hand
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