The Guilfordian

Filed under In Print, Opinion

“Helium” is synth heaven

HOMESHAKE, musician Peter Sagar’s solo recording project, released its highly anticipated fourth album, “Helium” through Sinderlyn Records mid-February. For those familiar with HOMESHAKE’s library, it comes as no surprise that “Helium” is heavily reliant on the sound of synthesizers to create a dreamy, sleepy-pop ambiance. Since Sagar’s first 2014 album release, “In the Shower,” HOMESHAKE has increasingly strayed from its original guitar-based structure towards a more texturized and unique experimentation in the realm of the synthesizer. If you are looking for standard ballad-like lyricism and classic indie-rock, listen to HOMESHAKE’s earlier albums. However, if you want to experience an ethereal sound which evokes a “do it yourself” attitude towards music, an attentive listen to “Helium” is highly recommended.

From the start, Sagar’s album takes its listeners into their own world. The cover art, reminiscent of a Dalí painting, closely resembles the content that lies within: an abstract, almost experimental sounding take on indie-pop.

The first song on the album, “Early”, has no lyrics but rather tracks of birds singing with a synth tune overlain. The sound is in the name; when listening, it makes you feel like you are waking up on an early spring day. From there, Sagar takes a more upbeat approach to the next couple songs, “Anything at All” and “Like Mariah,” which closely resemble his earlier sound, sans guitar. Returning to the interlude style of the first song on “Helium,” the fourth track, “Heartburn,” repeats beats from “Like Mariah” and foreshadows the beats that lay within the next track “All Night Long,” effectively bridging what would otherwise be a gap in the album. Sagar chooses to continue interludes like these throughout “Helium,” subtly referencing the structure of many rap albums. As a result, this album neither feels too upbeat or relaxed at any point. Rather, the two styles are woven throughout the album, making for a nicely balanced ensemble.

Lyrically, the album is somewhat lacking in content. This is accommodated for with the constant beat-driven sound.

It seems like Sagar was purposefully abandoning his traditional album format, which has reliably been heavy on the love songs with vocals at the forefront and beats as an accompaniment. Part of what makes the sound of “Helium” unique is that when there are vocals, they are more often than not inaudible, allowing the most important verses to jump out at listeners and the less important to be swallowed by the overlapping synth sounds.

If you are craving a mellow, dreamy, everchanging album, or even struggling to find something to accompany a hazy day, listen to “Helium.” The synthesizer has a plethora of sounds that Sagar has managed to master through playing around, cutting and pasting, and it shows in his latest album. “Helium” sticks to one specific genre but explores an abundance of different sounds that can be made within this limitation.

Sagar has found his element and proves that hindrance is not always a bad thing in this art form.

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