Helen is a new dream pop/shoegaze/fuzz pop recording project for Portland-based Liz Harris, who is well-known for the sheer genius of her ambient pop work under the name Grouper. On this new project, she’s joined by drummer Jed Bindeman and guitarist/bassist Scott Simmons. They formed a few years ago, and this album has actually been in the works for “several years”. It’s been widely reported that the original intent was for Helen to be a thrash band, but this is a far cry from that. I also have a hard time believing that story.
I’ve heard a couple of songs from the album, which will be released via Kranky Records on September 4. Based on what I’ve heard, this is a beautiful, dreamy, ambient record that will very much appeal to fans of Grouper. These new songs may have a little more fuzz, and they may not be quite as hypnotic as Grouper, but you still know what you’re getting here with the remarkable Liz Harris.
I’m a big fan of Grouper, but somehow I missed all of the announcements about this. I just found out about this today. By accident, actually.
“Violet” by Helen
One of the things that I really love about this is the contrast between Harris’ vocals and the guitars/drums. As usual, Harris’ vocals are beautiful. Bright and big, but laden with lots of delay and other effects. It’s impossible to discern any of the lyrics. The super fuzzy guitars are neither big nor bright. They’re mixed pretty low in the mix, and they sound a little muddy. Almost as if the guitar track is a fifth or sixth-generation cassette tape recording. The drums are also a bit buried and a bit muddy. Conversely, the bass is pretty big in the mix and much cleaner.