Helms Alee

Sleepwalking Sailors

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Creating things, especially creative works, can be a grueling process. The kind of brainpower it takes to pull even a bad record out of the ether and onto magnetic tape is astounding, so when an album comes along as carefully crafted as Sleepwalking Sailors, the third outing from Seattle-based sludge rockers Helms Alee, it's a truly impressive feat. With a sound that tends to drift between the discordant jangle of the Pixies and the powerful sonic gut-punch of the Melvins, the trio weaves together a dense tapestry of moody noise rock that seems to constantly shift and change directions. While the tempo might be on the slower side, Helms Alee's tendency to not stay in one place for too long gives the album an almost cinematic sense of movement as songs build and break like the tide. A sound like this can easily go awry, feeling as though the band is trying to do too much and not making anything happen in the process, but Helms Alee's attention to detail allows the group to hold everything together. Fully harnessing the power of the power trio, Dana James, Ben Verellen, and Hozoji Matheson-Margullis write songs that manage to feel dense with as few moving parts as possible, stripping away anything perfunctory while making sure every part they play makes as big an impact as possible. This economical approach to riff-based music is admirable in a genre that tends to skate by on hypnotic repetition, and it helps to set Helms Alee apart as a band whose members aren't just trying to write great songs, but are trying to craft a perfect album. Whether they've achieved that perfection is, of course, entirely subjective, but if you happen to find yourself lamenting the fact that no one is recording real albums like they used to in the "good old days" and you haven't checked out Sleepwalking Sailors yet, you're doing yourself a real disservice.

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