Britain's Luke Younger has been around for a while now, both as a member of Birds of Delay along with his solo project Helm. Helm has had previous releases on such varied imprints as 905 Tapes and Blackest Rainbow. This new LP (shared between Alter and Peasant Magik Records) combines deep drones with touches of noise and musique concrete, its lava-flow heaviness offset by crumbled bits of harmonic mischief. With a diverse mixture of sounds and a fine sense of composition and pacing, this album finds Helm in confident and challenging form.
My previous exposure to Helm had been through 905 Tapes, and it did not prepare me for this LP. Rather than diving right into massive, blasting drones, Younger starts "I" in an unsettling way with three different noise loops. Two different scraping sounds are met with a harsh cough, and the loops circle around each other nicely until they are joined by a quiet synth drone. The drone takes over for awhile but then fades out gradually against another tapestry of tape loops, as sighing and chanting voices roll around in the mix, undercut by groaning metal and pitch-shifted clicking noises. By the end of the first track any sort of meditative feelings are stripped away, as the disembodied chorus of voices turns into a demented and nightmarish collection of utterances.
"II" works a more plaintive angle for Helm, as a warm, peaceful, and lonely synth figure opens the piece. Though simple, the progression is lovely, and it sets the listener adrift in psychic headspace as it continues onward. Instead of piling on more sounds, Younger pulls back, using gentle washes of noise to propel the original riff forward. There are few modulations throughout the piece, which is not a bad thing at all here, as the contemplative mood increases through careful, unhurried repetition. By the end of the piece Younger abandons the initial figure and closes the proceedings with a smooth rolling drone. "II" is the perfect counterpoint to the unease and dread created by the layered sounds of "I", and the sequence turns "To An End" into a curiously uplifiting and beautiful listening experience. There are many musicians who try to do what Helm does, but few possess Younger's sense of tension and nuance. 8/10 -- Mike Griffin (19 May, 2010)