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The Universal Veil, "Helios/Hind"

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cover imageThis is one of those albums that is likely destined to instantly become some kind of sought-after cult classic, which is amusingly common territory for both of the artists involved.  In any case, The Universal Veil is entirely new to me, which makes a lot of sense in some ways (as far as Discogs and Bandcamp are concerned, the project does not exist) and does not make any sense at all in others (Helios/Hind basically checks every single possible box for "things I like").  As far as I can tell, however, Hood Faire's David Chatton Barker and Sam McLoughlin (Samandtheplants, Tongues of Light, etc.) have been performing live together for years under this guise and this album is something of a culminating event for the project, as the duo have collaged fragments of their past performances into a hallucinatory full-length of ravaged lo-fi tape experiments and something akin to "ethnological forgeries" like Harappian Night Recordings' classic The Glorious Gongs Of Hainuwele (or a chopped and screwed trip through the more outré side of Sublime Frequencies discography).  Needless to say, that means Helios/Hind sets a course quite far out into the shadowy psychedelic fringes, which is exactly what I would hope for when two artists this singular come together.

Hood Faire

The first side of the album ("Helios") opens with stuttering, chirping metal strings that feel like the work of some kind of Remko Scha-style contraption, but things quickly settle into a bleary, ramshackle groove of eerie synth atmospheres, hollow-sounding percussion, and loads of tape hiss and murk.  Naturally, that section is the album's "single" of sorts ("The Camel"), but it is basically just an unusually melodic 4-minute stretch of a sound collage that spans an entire side of vinyl.  As the rest of the piece unfolds, it variously resembles slow-motion exotica, The Gag File-era Aaron Dilloway, The Shadow Ring-style "found footage" creepiness, and a drugged gamelan ensemble collapsing from exhaustion, dropping things, and wandering off.  For the most part, I would describe the aesthetic as something akin to fragments of Nonesuch Explorer-esque tribal field recordings filtered through blown speakers and ravaged tape, but occasionally some other elements like laughter and party sounds drift in as well.  Unsurprisingly, the "Hind" side offers more of the same phantasmagoric miasma of cool tribal/junkyard percussion motifs, precarious keyboard melodies, and tape ruin, but it seems to have more of an "animal" element than the "Helios" side.  At times, it is even weirdly beautiful, as it is when a wonderful stomping and shuffling groove dissolves into a coda of warm, bleary drones.  In general, however, "Hind" feels like a ravaged recording of a gamelan procession colliding with a badly worn VHS tape of German Expressionist Horror at a lysergic bird sanctuary.  That is certainly quite a compelling illusion to linger in and Chatton Barker and McLoughlin thankfully manage to avoid ever breaking that fragile spell of strange and broken otherworldliness.  While there are only a couple of "set piece" moments in which Helios/Hind coheres into an especially focused and striking passage, such interludes are mostly just the icing on a cake of wonderfully immersive, gnawed, and gnarled outsider mindfuckery.

A sample can be found here.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 October 2021 07:45  


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