Sleeping on the Edge of the World by David Helpling Spotted Peccary Records http://www.spottedpeccary.com This is David Helpling’s second recording for Spotted Peccary, and it features the same sound that he established in his first album. It is a percussion-driven mix of electronic synthesizers, piano solo, some electric guitar, and occasional wordless vocals, blended with lots of reverb. There is no pseudo-tribal or pseudo-“world” styling here; it is resolutely American-sounding, with easy-to-follow pop harmonies and melodic lines. Helpling’s music at times sounds much like movie or TV scores, or even the soundtrack for ads for elegant cars. This commercial quality is not a bad thing, as he is excellent at suggesting a mood or even a visual scene with well-chosen sound. Much has been said about Helpling’s close musical resemblance to Patrick O’ Hearn. And this is true – the two styles are very close. Sometimes I wonder whether Patrick O’Hearn, on hearing Helpling’s music, might suddenly start researching “intellectual property” law. Helpling uses some of the very same synth-percussion sounds as O’Hearn, as well as other synthesizer presets. He also uses the characteristic O’Hearn arrangement of a heavily reverbed, single piano note line against an “orchestral” synthesizer background and a steady percussion pulse. As an experiment, I played Metaphor by O’Hearn directly after hearing this album. To my surprise, I found Helpling’s music smoother, more sophisticated, and more melodic than O’Hearn. Helpling has taken the rather choppy, rock-inspired O’Hearn style and gone with it into a smoother, more cinematic, dramatic environment. Helpling’s music has a melancholy, wistful quality, though it is never “dark” like the more a-tonal, and far less accessible, “dark ambient.” Helpling’s music, with its flowing piano line, might even be called “romantic,” unlike the harder-edged O’Hearn. And the addition of a drifting, “angelic” female voice in some tracks (sung by Kelly Caton Hurley) also brings in a gentler quality than the driving O’Hearn. This gentleness comes through in cuts like #5, “Sticks and Stones,” and especially in cut #8, “All Things End,” which is a tender, emotionally moving piece, created out of very simple ambient elements. Nevertheless, the highly imitative style is still a concern for me. Since I like O’Hearn’s music, I’m always glad to hear more of it, no matter who composes it! But I also hope that David Helpling, who has already proved his competence with this album and its predecessor, will move into a more recognizable territory of his own as his work progresses. HMGS rating: 6 (would be a 7, but I am marking him down one number for imitative style) Hannah M.G.Shapero 10/22/99 This review is also published in WIND AND WIRE, The Magazine of New Instrumental Music.
This review featured in:
David Helpling: Sleeping on the Edge of the World (CD, 593:1); Spotted Peccary Music SPM- 0802 Overall, this is a decent release. If you never heard any of Patrick O’Hearn, Peter Buffet, or Steve Roach releases -- you would be impressed. However, as strong as this music sounds and comes across so professionally, it suffers from the “more of the same” effect. Many have been hip to the O’Hearn/Buffet/Roach scene from day one and Helpling’s own tribute to this decade-old stream of consciousness is at best a signpost pointing back to the 80's new age pioneers. You will hear that Buffet, (circa The Waiting), piano over O’Hearn synths, bass, and rhythmic effects. Roach drones and loops come through in ‘Rain Falls” and “All Things End”. In fact, these are the two strongest tracks with Helping seeming to express more of his own sound. Helpling’s reverby, syrupy-sweet guitar atmospherics work nicely on “Sticks and Stones” but that O’Hearn synth and drum effects, though well-copied, weaken the cut’s uniqueness. Thankfully the piece is redeemed with a wonderfully executed Roach/Enoesque, droning outro. The remaining eight tracks regurgitate/rework Buffet/O’Hearn-isms. When Helpling becomes stronger in finding his own voice in guitar, electronics, and keys compositions and stylings he will represent one of the better artists out there. It is time to do your own thing, David, and let the rest of the pack follow your lead. ~ John W. Patterson
To purchase this recording and get more info, soundclips, etc.
CLICK ON ARTIST'S NAME ABOVE
OR . . .
Please visit my BUY IT E.E.R. NOW INDEX PAGE
Please try my brand spankin' new
EER and AMAZON.com QUIK-LINKs
buyer's guide to recommended music.
go to my LINKS page and find the vendors' section.