Uncategorizably eclectic, dark, intense cellist Helen Money‘s new third album, Arriving Angels has arrived. She’s playing St. Vitus in Greenpoint on March 22 at around 10 PM, the highlight of an otherwise skronky experimental metal bill which includes Cleric and Behold the Arktopus. Cover is a reasonable $10.
Although Helen Money a.k.a. Alison Chesley got her start in indie rock, and has created string arrangements for bands as heavy as Anthrax and as lightweight as Broken Social Scene, her solo work is her strongest. Armed with her pedalboard, she builds relentlessly menacing instrumentals, often using guitar voicings, equal parts cello metal, avant garde minimalism and gothic rock. Despite her ferocious chops, she doesn’t waste notes, favoring slower tempos, tricky meters, and the stygian depths of the sonic spectrum. This new album features multitracked solo pieces along with several cuts featuring Jason Roeder from Neurosis and Sleep on drums. It’s intensely gloomy, nebulously majestic stuff, recorded with a gleeful menace by Steve Albini.
The opening track, Rift, sets the stage. Using her loop ledal, she works her way out of a slowly oscillating drone punctuated by minimalist fuzztone hits and a handful of darkly resonant chords, the effects veering from murky to crunchy. Then an ominous chromatic riff pushes them out of the picture, then Money brings them back and mixes everything together into a pool of pitchblende sonics. The second track, Upsetter, works up a simple Tony Iommi-ish chromatic riff and variations, again with a mix of pulsing low-register sludge, crunchy assault and suspenseful atmospherics.
On the third track, Beautiful Friends, Money goes down so low you can hear the buzz and flutter of the strings – then the drums come in, a cavalcade of dead monks tumbling down the catacomb steps. Radio Recorders sets repeaterbox licks over hypnotically spiraling drums, then goes all echoey, austere ambience alternating with simple, murderous blows to the head. Midwestern Nights Dream, a brief, matter-of-fact interlude is unexpectedly bright, followed by the title track, juxtaposing atmospheric pulses and drones with bludgeoning chromatic riffage. The album winds up with a catchy, hypnotic, dirgey diptych that grows to an echoey, macabre surrealism. Who is the audience for this? Besides fans of metal and indie classical, anyone who gravitates toward dark, low-register music that’s hypnotic and encircling one minute and viscerally abrasive the next.