Helen Money

Atomic

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Alison Chesley's fifth solo full-length as Helen Money is both more expansive and more direct than her previous releases. Progressing from 2016's Become Zero, her first album to utilize multi-track digital recording, she continues to incorporate electronics and adventurous sound design into her work, this time featuring modular synthesizer textures applied by collaborator Will Thomas. The electronic enhancements give her cello playing a dreamy, unearthly glow, making it sound like an orchestra of ghosts are accompanying her performance. As deep and detailed as the production is, though, it doesn't mask the raw power of the compositions or the acoustic instrumentation. Playing somewhat like a soundtrack, these pieces are heavy on suspense. Brooding strings stir in the night air, sometimes left to resonate, and occasionally doubling down on an attack. On "Nemesis," they're joined by shivering pianos and clanging, abrasive synths, and after a brief respite, the electrified strings strike like lightning, with a cavernous beat thudding away all the while. Noah Leger's turbulent drums swirl around the sorrowful melody of "Coil," while "Coppe" is much gentler, focusing on Carol Robbins' delicate harp playing. The insistent "Brave One" begins with spaghetti Western-like chords, then gets flooded out with distorted melodies that sound uncannily like guitars. "Marrow" is easily one of the album's highlights, building up to a steadily advancing storm of crashing drums and trippy effects whirling everything around like a cyclone. As with Become Zero, Atomic is triumphant on so many levels -- the composition, production, arrangements, and cinematic pacing are simply stellar.

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