Helen Money - Become Zero (Thrill Jockey Records)
LP / CD / DL
Helen Money, AKA Alison Chesley’s exploration of emotive and intense music is beautifully realised in her new LP ‘Become Zero’. Written after the death of both of her parents, Become Zero is like an open wound that is taking forever to heal and is amplified by Chesley’s musical ferocity with palpable sadness and striking beauty. This energy is used with her extensively manipulated cello along with drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis), Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s) and collaborator and co-producer Will Thomas (who provides sound effects and samples) on an album that is incredibly personal and visceral.
Helen Money toured with Bob Mould in 2015, including a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Her history of collaborations with Chicago improvisers is extensive.
Chesley currently resides in Los Angeles and will be participating in a month long residency at the venue Complex throughout August 2016. Helen Money is actively touring throughout Europe and the United States.
This writer is no stranger to Helen Money and was utterly blown away after seeing her support Shellac in Cardiff on their last tour. Appearing quite ‘naked’ on the stage with a Cello and effects board, the ferocity that Helen Money makes with such meagre offerings is quite extraordinary. But hey, back to the LP review!
Lead track ‘Every Confidence’ has a beautiful, atmospheric and devastating cello sound that immediately engulfs. This sound could almost be used in a Scandinavian noir film. This tranquillity is eventually punctuated by a brutal piercing noise that gets louder and louder and engulfs the Cello sound. And this play of loud and quiet plays right through till the bitter end. Brilliant.
Title track ‘Become Zero starts with corrosive noise and tribal drumming from the outset. Quiet accompanying piano comes in and then suddenly the noise is ramped up again. This track is very up and down and as well the lovely repetition present in it, it is very ‘rollercoaster’ in its feel!
‘Radiate’ starts with very noisy runs up and down the frets creating a vortex of sound/noise that can’t help but suck one in. Helen Money continues the punishment until the track evolves into beautiful soundtrack to a spacewalk that is taking the listener further and further away from the thin blue line and into majestic nothingness.
‘Blood and Bone’ starts with staccato piano with the keys struck in anger than more played. The cello comes in once again and the combination of the heavy key and string strikes makes for such a heartbreaking sound that is very emotive in its execution. It’s probably the track of the LP.
The rest of the relatively short LP is taken up by more atmospheric and film score esque cello and piano work. The noise that Helen Money makes changes from the unlistenable noise and cacophony, to the subtle space / vacuum sounds that seems very popular at the moment. What Helen Money does is take you on a journey that may or may not be at all times comfortable, but it is certainly one journey that each one of us will take one day. It may be a mix of classical, noisy, tribal drums and tuneful cacophony. But, what a journey eh? She will be touring again extensively in the fall and throughout 2017. Catch her immersive and intense performance when you can.