The Helio Sequence, Negotiations
Homespun but widescreen
The line on Negotiations, Portland indie-rock duo the Helio Sequence’s fifth album, is that its making was marked by big departures, due primarily to outside circumstances. A flood ruined the group’s original rehearsal/recording space, necessitating a move to a larger warehouse; they also bought more analog gear this time around – the album’s sonic warmth is an obvious byproduct. But musically, guitarist-singer Brandon Summers and one-time Modest Mouse drummer Benjamin Weikel haven’t changed all that much. They still ache with longing over slow-to-medium-fast tempos, still write glacially pretty guitar parts, and still nail that autumnal sweet spot that a lot of older indie fans like to nestle into deeply. Negotiations, their fifth album for Sub Pop, doesn’t have the grooveful rush of 2004′s gorgeous Love and Distance – still their best – but that album’s sweet quality still glimmers on this one’s surface. “The Measure” showcases the Helio Sequence on high simmer, its most fetching mode, its pensive lyric (“So you want to know the difference between the broken and the lost/ Between the voiceless and the muted/ Between the payback and the cost”) fitting its slow-cresting guitar picking and tom-heavy beat like a glove. Homespun but widescreen – it’s what they do best.