Alison Chesley (aka Helen Money) is mostly known for her excellent collaborations with a myriad of diverse artists, including Bob Mould, Mono, Russian Circles and Agalloch. A classical cellist herself she has become an experimental music savant, releasing great records on her own, with 2013's Arriving Angels standing out, as did her collaborative album with Jarboe. On her newest album, Become Zero, Helen Money enlists the help of Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roader, Rachel Grimes of intriguing minimalistic chamber music group Rachel's, and with the aid of co-producer Will Thomas sets out on a mesmerizing, emotional journey.
The first aspect of Become Zero that becomes apparent is the classical background of Chesley, and her ability to accommodate this part of her musical identity within any other setting, may it be post-rock, ambient music or extreme metal. The result is an increase on the emotional depth that this work radiates with, raising a stunning aura that hovers over the music. The instrumentation, including cello, violin and piano, causes a leap to chamber music sceneries, but also eases the rise of a high dramatization of the soundscapes, for instance in “Blood and Bone.”
The grasp that Chesley has on the experimental side of extreme and experimental music is unbelievable, and the modes that the music transforms through in Become Zero is simply stunning. Starting off through sharp guitars and aggressive riffs, moments start to allude to the cataclysmic sound of post-rock, and the first full-length of Red Sparowes. Enhancing the effect of this sound with the slight ambient noise element, mainly coming through the use of feedback, creates a thick veil over the structures of the tracks. The plunge into drone depths does not seem far fetched at that time, and in “Radiate” Helen Money crafts this post-rock/drone hybrid, within an abstract setting and coupled minimalistic characteristics, successfully turning it into a majestic peak.
Still, the drone approach is not the bravest experimentation in this album. The title track displays a sudden turn towards a neo-folk direction, with folkish tones alongside noise elements and a Neurosis-like tribalistic percussion. Even more extreme is the trespassing in Neurosis territory with “Leviathan,” as a healthy dose of distortion turns the track to a monstrous manifestation, while an eerie black metal lead swoops in. And yet, a track like “Machine” follows, with Helen Money rooted still in classical music, but the background pointing more towards an electronic affinity, granting a more mechanical vibe.
It is the emotions that radiate from all the different moments of Become Zero, that lift the record further. The melancholic setting of “Every Confidence,” the sorrowful and yet majestic vibe of “Radiate,” the energetic approach of the title track or the anger displayed in “Leviathan” are what complete this excellent work that so excellently depicts the landscape of experimental music.
8.2 / 10
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