Helen - The Original Faces LP


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Label: Kranky

Our Review:

Sure, let's call 'em a super group. Why not? Helen is fronted by Liz Harris. Yes, THAT Liz Harris, of Grouper fame; and she's joined by bassist Scott Simmons of Eat Skull, and Jed Bindeman, who seems to be the only drummer in Portland, Oregon given his ubiquity in so many great projects (Eternal Tapestry, Heavy Winged, Operative, The Greys). Also, the trio list an eponymous Helen as the backing vocalist, who sounds remarkably like Liz Harris herself.

They've also made claim that the band's first intentions were to be a thrash band. Now, that would have been quite amazing had Helen followed through on that concept; but that was not meant to be. Instead we have this lovely lovely lovely shoegazing noise-pop project. Liz Harris has long been able to craft drifting, pop-narcotic perfection through her slumbering songs as Grouper. Joined by a rhythm section, she's forced herself to step forward with her melodies - both vocally and on guitar, both of which are still buried in rainclouds full of reverb and sadness – and it's a gambit that pays off very nicely. Simmons tends to throttle the bass, which has him sounding more like D Boon than Deb Googe more often than not; and Bindeman take an understated, if upbeat approach to the kit. Actually, the whole rhythm section of Simmons and Bindeman can be pretty upbeat, with Harris adhering a jangly blur to the wintery grandeur that's long been her trademark. It's a nice mix. The atmosphere on The Original Faces is pretty damn captivating, reminiscent in all the right ways of Black Tambourine, The Aislers Set, The Lilys, and whatever your favorite Slumberland band is, past, present, or future. A wonderful release!