by Aaron Rajala
Edgy might be a word that some people equate with aging hipsters on the fringe of becoming old enough to be considered cool. However, it also happens to be the most appropriate way to describe the all-girl Brooklyn-based fuzz rock quartet Heliotropes. In a modern indie format largely dominated by harmonies and excessive electronic effects, Heliotropes is a throwback to 1990’s sludge/psychadelia that manages to express a unique style and refuses to stagnate.
On Tuesday, the band dropped the debut LP, A Constant Sea, an album that is anything but constant. Throughout the 16-track presentation is a varied collection of heavily distorted, bluesy rock instrumentals backed by a raw, teeth-gnashing vocal styling. Reminiscent of female-dominated psych-rockers Dum Dum Girls, and indie rocker legends, Sleater-Kinney, Heliotropes provides a generous mix of droning, crooning, fuzz, power chord progression, and visceral lyrical content throughout the album.
Opening with an assault of distorted vamping guitar, the tracks “Early in the Morning” and “Psalms” is just a taste of the variety and range of A Constant Sea. A testament to its ability to beckon emotions of all types, the following track titled Everyone Else is an honest, heartfelt reprieve from the indie/blues bombardment. Middle tracks such as “Good and Evil” and “Ribbons and The Dove” provide the meat of the heavy blues presence in A Constant Sea. Fluctuating from a groove to a wail and back again, the progression of the album is one that builds mood and leads listeners into the darkness and back into the light.
– Heliotropes from A Constant Sea
In appropriate fashion, the latter tracks of the album are pure serenity. Beautiful chord progressions and airy vocals provide a peaceful send off, and are essential in creating the balance that makes A Constant Sea such a well-rounded release. All three tracks that bring the album to a close (“Unadorned,” “Awake,” and “Christine”) have their own style of beauty and rhetoric that drive at separate areas of pain and triumph.
“Early In The Morning” – Heliotropes from A Constant Sea
Although it’s a psychedelic blues album at heart, A Constant Sea provides enough musical divergence to encompass a variety of genres. The album stands out as a collection of tracks, both ugly and pretty, in perfect cohesion. You’ve heard bands like Heliotropes, but in no way is their style copied, contrived, or antiquated. A Constant Sea is the essential album for any listener that longs for the heavy distortion and bittersweet joy found in of indie rock of yesteryear.
Aaron Rajala is a full-time indie music blogger from Portland. His blog is IndieWireTap.com