There are some lands you don’t want to return to. Other lands you relish like a cool spring. “Land Of No Return” by Hellenica is very firmly in the latter camp, since it’s full of vim, zest and a quiet opulence that is brought to life with the use of electronics and recording every sound to a 1970s Denon reel-to-reel antique shop tape machine. Jim Demos gives archaic and expected info of the processes involved, which account for synthesis being treated with analogue warmth and stretched algorithms. This gives the land of no return a fitting alibi to become some life-changing power instead of out-of-date sour.
Indeed the lip-licking tastiness of the synthetic equations on offer amounts to delightfully peculiar and somewhat “quite” music. Particular and artsy, arresting and dancefloor… a neat combination is reached. Yet it’s very ambient. Comparisons that suit could be to Orbital’s “In-Sides” album, and drones-wise, Aquarelle on the Low Point label. Jim Demos has produced very cleverly stitched together sounds that do not rely on fixation, instead need to be treated as a whole. They are rhythmically very odd – it always sounds like everything is “slightly” behind the beat, giving the record a feeling of instability. Yet the strength lies in well-put-together soundscapes, waveforms and transductions. It really is something of paradoxical oddity, like the occasional soaring electric guitars that almost create full-on power chord choruses out of the material.
There are also nods to The Caretaker/Leyland Kirby stylistically throughout, a general maudlin (not mawkish) fascination with the depressive states of antimatter and decompression from dementia. Another compliment related is that the music is very focused. Nothing outstays its welcome, there is a firm grasp of texture, modality experience, the reigning in of the by-standing public. That’s also been something that’s fascinated me about ambient listener-ships. There really isn’t anything of a “following” except for touring artists, and producers like Hellenica often become forgotten in the detritus of “heard it once / no return”. I am piqued to comment on this because of the title of the album, “Land Of No Return”. If you think of the “land” as something of matter, like a fish, for example, then are we to simply take the nourishment or let it go? Are we as humans purely built for disposing of music so frivolously that we might as well catch pathogens through disease and decay? I think not. But it is a point I question only because of this new release.
And isn’t that the point? Music is meant to make us feel good, and so is criticism, or social commentary, documenting, whatever you want to call it. With this collection of seventies-and-eighties-soundtrack pieces I found serenity in the solace of time. A strongly stirring record, I’ve not heard anything quite like the sounds of Hellenica here. Get the release before it too, may vanish into the land of no return.