Helios is an outlet of Keith Kenniff, the Boston-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, electronic music producer, and Berklee College of Music graduate. Kenniff is also one half of the indie rock/shoegaze band Mint Julep alongside his wife, while he also records and performs piano as Goldmund, for which he has seven LPs on Unseen Music, Type Records, and Western Vinyl, including this year's Occasus.
Kenniff kick-started the Helios project with 2004's Unomia, and he's since shared dozens of ambient releases under the name, including five long-players via his own Unseen Records or Type. And while they're all different in their own subtle ways, the musical work is cinematic, deeply introspective, and wonderfully transportive—understated yet impactful. It's music for headphones; music for the dead of night, best enjoyed free from distraction so as to best appreciate the rich textures and nuances within.
Up next is Veriditas, Helios' sixth full-length but the first on Ghostly International. We're told that it introduces "unusual shapes and landscapes" to the Helios catalogue. Whereas past songs have followed traditional structures—discernable bell curves with beginnings, arcs, and ends—the focus here is texture and harmony. "I wanted to explore emotionality within something more static," Kenniff says.
In support of the release, Keniff has browsed through his Helios archives, from 2004 to the present day, and compiled some of his favourite pieces into one cohesive mix. Much of this material is unreleased or has gone unheard, having drifted under the radar for one reason or another. As would be expected, the mix as a whole is delightfully intricate, featuring moments of uptempo bliss juxtaposed with periods of beatless ambience. Drift off, you sure will.
What have you been up to recently?
Aside from this album I just released an album (as Goldmund) called, Occasus in April, recently completed a short documentary for HBO out later this year, a score for a feature documentary out in the Fall and a handful of ads for Google, Pier 1, and Samsung. My wife and I are prepping to albums to be released next year as Mint Julep.
You’ve recently signed an album to Ghostly. How did the relationship come about?
I've been a fan of Ghostly and their roster for years and participated in a compilation they released several years ago. Someone from their team reached out to see what I was up to and I happened to have an album near completion, so we discussed doing it together and they were into it. I'm excited to be a part of what they're doing.
What can we expect from the album?
It's more ambient, textural, and experimental, less about guitars and big swells and percussion. I feel as though I've become more and more enamoured with harmony and less with melody and traditional song forms and didn't want to necessarily re-cycle the process I've been doing for the past decade. I will still go back to using those other elements on future albums, but I'm happy to explore in this space for a bit.
How does it differ from your earlier material?
I released an EP called Moiety in 2012, and I'd say it's a little more in line with that. Generally, there are some lighter more typical Helios moments but also a few moments that dwell in a darker aesthetic, it's more about variations of timbre than sort of a "pretty" bed of sounds, which I think is typically the kind of thing I've done in the past.
How did you select the records you included in this mix?
This collection is material of mine that's either unreleased or b-sides/rarities and a few remixes peppered throughout that people may not have been exposed to. It spans from about 2004 to 2018.
Was there a particular idea you were looking to convey?
I thought it would be an interesting idea if I could take all of these tracks from different time periods and different approaches and somehow make it seem like a cohesive mix or an album playlist.
Where do you envisage it being listened to?
Headphones or a quiet space.
What else do you have coming up this year?
I have a few more film/ad projects coming out and working on finishing up the Mint Julep material with my wife.
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0-1:09-10 "Day Nation"
4:20-9:47 "Untitled" (Radiohead Remix Contest Submission)
9:47-12:46 "Corner Window"
12:46-17:37 Synkro "Midnight Sun" (Helios Remix)
21:13-22:24 "Seven Days"
22:24-24:51 "Near Islands"
24:52-28:22 Nils Frahm "Re" (Helios Rework)
28:22-31:59 Balmorhea "Truth" (Helios Remix)
31:59-35:34 "You The Rose"