‘Essential Aliens’ by Helvetia album review

Furio Gerwitz, Radio DJ

“Essential Aliens,” released June 25, is the latest project by west coast indie rock group Helvetia, best known for its connection to the 90s slow rock act Duster by way of frontman Jason Albertini. Helvetia has largely served as a passion project and creative outlet for Albertini following Duster’s dissolution in the early 2000s, carrying that group’s musical legacy while allowing Albertini to refine his own brand of hazy, zoned-out rock. “Essential Aliens” explores this niche, largely using drums and guitars of all sorts to explore 90s indie rock with a few touches of bluegrass influence.

“Not So Infinite Life of Weird”: A long, menacing opening featuring erratic drums and slow horns.

“Crooks Go in the Ground”: A slow, subdued rock track bookended by a spiraling outro.

“New Mess”: An uptempo, distortion-heavy track with a tense atmosphere and reflective lyrical content.

“Jumper”: In contrast to the last track, a slow, acoustic track with dense drums.

“Claw”: A loosely structured track with notable guitar solos led by an uptempo, effect-heavy guitar loop. 

“The Strange Pull”: A slow, brief acoustic track largely led by creative drum playing.

“Rocks on the Ramp”: A somber acoustic ballad led by an energetic drumline.

“Star Hinged Trap”: A two-part track, beginning with a dense instrumental section before an abrupt transition to a stripped back outro.

“Caroline Stays/The Al Snatch”: A fever dream of a track, with sparse guitar and drum overshadowed by a persistent, at times off-key buzzing synthesizer.

“Why Am I Missing”: An upbeat, looping rock track followed by a stripped-back outro.

“The Echo Creek”: A standout track beginning with a dense drum and piano-led intro before a chaotic, electric guitar-led outro.

“Does It Go Backwards”: A mellow, uptempo acoustic track with a standout melody and somber outro.

‘Better Get Gifted”: A stressful, constantly rising track with a freeform bridge before a crescendo outro.

“Skit 8”: An upbeat, mid-tempo track led by a southern guitar riff before a sparse, slowed-down outro.

Outro: I think “Essential Aliens” is a pretty mixed set of tracks. While Albertini’s technical skill is without question, especially on the drums, the album is hurt by a lack of structure and some questionable production decisions on a few tracks, such as “Caroline Stays.” Likewise, the album has its high points and is aided by the skill of its producer. I’d give it a listen if you’re interested in hearing a unique approach to indie rock, but it certainly isn’t a career peak. Ultimately, I give “Essential Aliens” 3 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails.

Standout Tracks: New Mess, Star Hinged Trap, The Echo Creek.


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