Helicopter Quartet is, funnily enough, a duo of sound-makers arising from Leeds, UK. Today, we’re going to be listening to their May release, Leading Edges. This release treads along the same tracks as their release from last year, Where Have All The Aliens Gone; although, this release seems to have more direction and movement from the songs.
In my opinion this is a natural progression to the songs on Leading Edges. While Aliens seems like an obvious ambient record, this one moves more into post-rock; very akin to the likes of bands like Mono and certain World’s End Girlfriend records. This is incredibly apparent on The Way It Never Was and, somewhat, on Refuge. Both create this massive sweeping sensation of space and elegance with the manner that the violin and guitar work together.
This post-rock crescendo core direction also takes hold of the track Hothouse, which is mostly dark, slow and slightly melodic. Then it gets to the about six minutes in and it gets to these tremolo picked guitar, these ear piercing wail from (what I assume to be) the violin. It’s an incredibly majestic track that rewards patience and attention to detail.
That’s not to say that Helicopter Quartet have strayed from the dark ambience, my oh my no, it returns in palatable sections that don’t feel intrusive, or too crushing. 110 is an oppressive collection of string slides, darkly synth and stabs of noise. The whole song creates a horror-movie-esque atmosphere that feels as if it should be played while a camera pans around a murders safe house. All while it zooms in on the graphic nature and mentality of the killer.
It has to be said that I disagree with what people have said about the beauty of this album. For me, it sounds like the wolf in sheep’s clothing of post-rock; not what you’d expect from a band that utilises violins, guitars, basses and synths. This is strikingly clear in the tune Trailing Edge, which treads through various different atmospheres: there is the thick bass and violin at the begging that morphs slowly with the slimy synth in the background into a something much more sinister.
Leading Edges feels like a classy lady with a kinky edge that you’re not aware of until it’s too late; she has everything going for her on the upper layers, but when you let her sink in, you find something much more satisfying to your needs.
Rewarding and unique, Helicopter Quartet have created a truly great album without resorting to the splashing on of tarty effects and makeup to make something feel epic and wonderful evil.