Album Review: Homeshake – Helium

The recording project of Montréal artist Peter Sagar, the forth Homeshake album Helium arrives Friday February 15th. The trios of previous album releases by Sagar under the Homeshake banner, have been an evolution through guitar-based stoner indie-pop to synth-backed, lo-fi R&B on 2017’s Fresh Air. However, for Helium the synths share center stage with Segar’s ethereal voice. Helium is an album of songs that are both grounded and intimate but as weightless as the album title suggests. 

Photo: Salina Ladha

“Ever since I started introducing synthesizers into my music, I’ve gotten more interested in texture I’d hit a creative dead end [with guitars], so synths took over.” 

Peter Sagar

Where his previous three records were recorded directly to one-inch tape in a local studio, Helium was recorded and mixed by Sagar alone, in his apartment in Montreal. Liberated from the rigid editing process he’d previously subjected himself to. Sagar immersed himself in the micro-details of sound. Paradoxically it’s led to an album that is stripped of superfluousness. 

Beginning the writing for Helium shortly after completing Fresh Air. Segar was in the middle of what he calls a “binge” reading of Haruki Murakami. While from the first bending chords and birdsong of Early, to the elongated fade out of Couch Cushion it’s a record that echoes melancholic isolation. It also acts like a Hitofude-ryuu brushstroke. Where one continuous streak creates beautiful patterns with the most delicate of touches. 

“I did a lot of it at home in the middle of the night. It made me get more obsessive about details.

No tape hiss, no humming power outlets and shitty mixing boards. Everything just came out nice and pure.”

Peter Sagar

“Everyone I know, lives in my cellphone,” sings Segar on Anything At All while a skeletal beat and three note guitar hook fills more space than many achieve with weeks of layering. The track drops off a precipice to the deep synthetic bass notes of Like Mariah. Not just stripping back the instrumentation, but also the lyrics. Which hit falsetto highs and deliver pound for pound like Canelo Alverez. 

The gossamer tracks of Helium are weaved together by short instrumentals, but Just Like My feels heavier by comparison. Bass and drums combine with a horn sound and woozy percussion, as the lyrics explore the comfort of solitude. Whereas high pop progressions are hit on Another Thing

Simultaneously dynamic and wistful, Helium seamlessly transitions between yearning laments and constricted lo-fi. A record equally at home on a dark evening or at a late night club, it’s a heavyweight album that’s deceptively light on its feet. 

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