By: Sarah Moore
The Helio Sequence's Brandon Summers had to lose his voice to find it again. After severely damaging his vocal chords, Summers endured a demanding process to regain his vocal chords, implementing a period of silence and redeveloping his work habits. He eschewed whiskey for early morning practices and physical and vocal exercise. Their renewed focus has paid off, as Keep Yours Eyes Ahead (released by Sub Pop on January 29) bursts with insurmountable energy, force and ingenuity.
Just two best friends (since middle school) comprise the band, even though most tracks on Keep Your Eyes Ahead seem much vaster. The two friends, Summers and Benjamin Weikel, maintain some classic rock & roll maneuvers amidst dreamy, video-game pop like "Can't Say No," a piece that might as well include elements from a water world in a video game. Of course, the Sequence is not just another synth-rock band. Having toured with the likes of Blonde Redhead and Kings of Leon, the Sequence has been able to stand apart as well as alongside those names.
Summers' seamless vocals transfix the listener amidst complicated drumming and synth textures. The band plays in the same vein as former tour mates The Secret Machines' dynamic, layered, epic pop music, with crashing drums and cymbals to maintain vital energy. Think a less quirky, jolty Modest Mouse, for whom Weikel once played drums, so the similar ingredients make sense.
The whole sound is very ethereal, as layered keyboards and guitar effects waver behind Summers' rehabilitated voice. However, Keep Your Eyes Ahead does not rely on these tricks. Though the blips and bleeps are present, this pair utilizes their keen sense of arrangement and compositional savvy to create some songs that will stand the test of time. "Hallelujah" flows with Summers' stream of consciousness lyrics riding relentless driving rhythms and heavy guitar. Some of the effects in this track meld for very aurally pleasing tones, where the smattering of devices somehow becomes just one thing amidst chaos.
There are quiet, more introspective moments to the disc. "Shed Your Love" involves the relaxed folk musings of Summers' travels and loves. Here, their newfound minimalism really shines. On other tracks, layers of effects may distract from the overall succinctness the two friends have discovered. The listener seven-minute-long songs common to earlier releases have shifted to something less burdensome. While their earlier work elongated their jamming, the Sequence now reins in the abstract and superfluous to create a cohesive, energetic and colossal album.
JamBase | Oregon
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