Experience the power, drama, and magic of the music of David Helpling with this masterpiece of deep introspection punctuated with splashes of light and lengthening shadows.
Sleeping On the Edge Of The WorldDavid Helpling
I can see (or should I say ‘hear’) why everyone is so excited by the latest release from Spotted Peccary artist David Helpling, Sleeping on the Edge of the World. It's an outstanding recording. Blending the moodiness of semi-dark ambient with rich melodic warmth and unique rhythms, Helpling walks along a path of beauty tinged with sadness, pain with pleasure, light with dark, and fear with joy. Sound like hyperbole to you? I don't blame you. But, even after just one listen to this CD, I was convinced it was a breakthrough release. There can be no denying that there are elements of Patrick O'Hearn's work (e.g. the music on his release Metaphor) scattered throughout Sleeping... But, so what? Being influenced by someone is the very nature of art, especially music. For my money, David Helpling's relationship to Patrick O'Hearn is that of two artists who have discovered the same well-spring of inspiration, but both head in different directions (sometimes dramatically different ones). David's music is often denser, suffused with background textures that flirt with the listener's consciousness - just enough to be noticed and then, like Kaiser Soze, ‘poof’ they vanish. This mastery of the subtle nuance is what separates an album like Sleeping... from the pack. (One of David's Spotted Peccary labelmates, John Flomer, has the same talent). Want an example?
Listen very closely to the title cut from Sleeping... You'll hear the main melody line, the kinetic background rhythms, and maybe even the recurring piano theme in the deep background. But underneath all that is more still. Those ‘other’ melody lines contribute to a three-dimensional element of the music. As with all the best recordings from this label, finding favorite cuts seems superfluous.
There is the wonderfully rhythmic ‘Deepest Days,’ the melancholic guitar-driven ‘Sticks and Stones’ or the somber and reflective ‘All Things End.’ But, hell, I don't mean to single any one song out.
This is, simply, a killer CD. Shall I tell you how killer? When I couldn't find it for about a week, I freaked (ask Kathryn about that!). Of course, it also goes without saying (which is why I will say it) that engineering and production is flawless, as is the cover art (what every space and ambient label around wouldn't give to have a Greg Klamt in the house, huh?). My hat is off to David Helpling and, of course, to the man behind this label, Howard Givens. With the release of this CD and Flomer's Night In The Vapor Jungle the label has outdone itself. I'll admit I was concerned one or two years back about the ambient direction in which Spotted Peccary was headed. But, it appears that my fears were unwarranted. Spotted Peccary is still the home of the best American electronic music as near as I can tell. Sleeping on the Edge of the World is proof of that, for sure.- Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire
David Helpling's sophomore effort fulfills the promise of his first CD, Between Green and Blue. The guitarist is still influenced by Patrick O'Hearn, sharing the same penchant for smoldering, sensual rhythms and simple yet highly evocative melodies. He arranges it all on guitar and synthesizers, although it's often difficult to tell which is which. Helpling sends his guitar through a stream of effects and delays, using volume swells to mask its attack, turning his stringed instrument into an ambient orchestra. Across sequencer rhythm loops that sound like a pan-ethno drum troupe floating in space, Helpling layers surging synth pads draped with simple melodies that create a moody, cinematic expanse. Because he's a guitarist, Helpling has a natural sense of phrasing that eludes many keyboardists in this area of melodic electronics.- John Diliberto, Amazon.com Editorial
Sleeping on the Edge of the World is David Helpling's second CD and it is a quantum leap ahead of his debut. It is still in the symphonic synthesizer style and has vast atmospheres, but Helpling has progressed in his compositional style. His sound design is more sophisticated and his soundscapes are more intricate. He weaves the atmospheres through the melodies deftly and smoothly without missing a beat. Deep listeners will go to the edge of the world with him. Helpling provides a warm respite at that stop. This is a very good CD; it will appeal to fans of Jeff Pearce, James Johnson, and J. Arif Verner.- Jim Brenholts, AllMusic.com
Very reminiscent of Patrick O'Hearn's Trust CD, and favorably so, this is melodic ambient with rich textures. Perfect drifting space music with beautiful piano echoing in the background. Booming percussion from time to time adds to the feeling of expansiveness. The musical mood fits the title of the disc most aptly.
‘Deepest Days,’ for example, conjures up images of speeding across the horizon with its driving rhythms, then it abruptly stops as we reach the edge of a great expanse. Looking around, taking in the view, the journey continues as the spacious sounds are replaced with the driving beat again.
Piano moves into the foreground on ‘Divine Whisper,’ but there's still a lot going on around it. Beautiful synth strings and loads of percussion keep things moving. Helpling has the ability to mix seemingly contrasting elements in a very pleasing, effective way. Many of the songs have a reflective, quiet mood, yet are filled with richly layered rhythms.
The disc consists of eleven fairly short tracks, and though they all fit together well, a nice variety of musical ideas within the main theme of space and expansiveness is explored. This is very accessible music, and should appeal to fans of ambient as well as pop or even, dare I say it, new age.
The O'Hearn comparison is unavoidable throughout, particularly on tracks like ‘Moon Dreaming Thunder’ and ‘Soul of a Child,’ with their interplay of deep echoing booming drums, lots of brushed cymbals, and piano heavy on the reverb.
Very soothing, and very good.- Phil Derby, Electroambient Space
Musical elements of nighttime, dreaming and otherworldiness are all part of Sleeping on the Edge of the World. Self-taught multi-instumentalist David Helpling shapes his soundforms into smoothly twisting panoramas topped with keyboard explorations which may seem rather new-agey to some. Beneath the obvious (though always beautifully rendered) piano presence, Helpling lays down some interestingly amorphous ambient textures and subtle beats.
When Rain Falls, lush clouds whirl to be embellished by gentle urban-tribal percussion and symphonic rays, fading quietly away. Shapeless and safe, warm gusts and faint electronic rhythms stir while Sleeping on the Edge of the World (4:11); soon, rolling piano notes cascade across the nightscape. The urbane synth and piano atmospheres of Deepest Days receive an additional pump-me-up from perkier beats and a dance-floor-ready bassline... a sophisticated booty-shaker?
Divine Whisper almost slips off into a new age territory, but is saved by the beauty of its dreamily hazy backdrop. Free-floating guitar strands and rolling sonic haze are part of Sticks and Stones; no fear of broken bones here, just fluffy musical phrasings and sparse beats like faraway thunder. Long flowing tones become Moon Dreaming Thunder, another blend of airy keyboarding and lightly applied neo-primitive drumming.
The speedier guitar riff and pattering cymbals of Soul of a Child merge incongruously with dense, semi-spooky synthwash and chiming ivories, but is all the more interesting for being so. A richly layered bed of synth strata is sprinkled with occasional resonant notes and just a hint of vocal haze in All Things End (6:13). Hushedly booming beats, shimmering curtains of sound and deep, flowing tones lead the listener Deeper Still, accompanied by quietly clattering ethno-accents and subterranean hisses and echoes.
Nocturnal travels into the Shadows of Far Night are led by swiftly moving passages through cloudy, darkened atmospheres. Muted cycling chimes open Promise to be backed by luxuriously sweeping strings. Piano notes join and loop through a repeated phrase over a subtly changing background, all of which suddenly fades into light.
While this release may not be ‘challenging’ enough for some listeners, seekers of audio serenity will discover a twilight haven wrapped in the beautiful sounds within. David Helpling's previous release Between Green and Blue (overviewed this month) was nominated for an INDIE award in 1997. For my ears, Sleeping on the Edge of the World takes several steps beyond that release and bodes well for his artistic future. AmbiEntrance-rated at 8.2- Ambientrance