Review: Helm – Silencer

From Lee Gamble’s decimated ‘ardkore to Rashad Becker’s alien teleportation devices, the past few years’ output from Bill Kouglias’ Pan has been singular in both quality and reach. Despite a uniform tendency towards the outer limits, the often restrictive dance music world has embraced Pan with open arms, even as far as takeovers of “bass music Top Of The Pops” Boiler Room. Though often abstract, the connections Lee Gamble, Becker or Heatsick have to that world are written into the DNA of their work. Others, however,  are more difficult to place. One such example is Helm, an alias of Luke Younger whose label Alter co-releases new the Silencer EP. Though he’s been operating for a number of years in and around DIY noise scenes, last year’s Impossible Symmetry LP was something of a watershed moment. On it, Younger joined a raft of auteurs from techno, drone, noise and beyond expertly continuing the lineage of post punk experimentation far into the future, a terrain so fruitful it’s fast becoming the dominant aesthetic in underground circles.

Stream: Helm – Silencer (PAN) 

If this record can be considered a companion piece to last year’s, its title track certainly acts as an addendum to that LP’s “Liskojen yo”; although this time round Younger displays an almost uncharacteristic lack of restraint. The wiry, dying yelps that populated that piece are redoubled for the sequel, with uncomfortable whinnying feedback as disorienting as it is antagonistic. There’s a glimmer of Muslimgauze in the arcane drum patterns but a closer bedfellow might be found in uncompromising noise legends Wolf Eyes’ recent material, where their ever-present blasts of painful of high end have been given new emphasis through the use of ominous space and submerged rhythmic patterns.

That’s not to say the desolate drones of the previous LP have taken a backseat to a maelstrom of noise. Punctuated by muffled kicks, “Mirrored Palms” opts for the slow burn instead, its suffocating atmosphere gradually giving way to an infinitely reaching horn inhuman in it’s endlessness. Elsewhere, on closer “The Haze” stop-start rhythmic clicks evoke some hitherto unknown primitive, machinery drenched in darkness.

An obvious comparison is Raime’s widely acclaimed output on Blackest Ever Black, but where their work is undermined by an almost digital rigidity Helm’s is characterised by an extremely organic ebb and flow. Younger’s indecipherable combination of found sounds, electro acoustic techniques and subtle electronics is the key to this, successfully blurring lines to the point it’s impossible to determine the original sources of any given element.

It’s in this that Younger is a sound artist in the truest sense of the term, and it’s the quality that defines Pan’s roster. That the wider club music world has committed itself so fully to the label is understandable past the six (or less) degrees of separation that connects Pan’s artists to more dance floor friendly fodder. In a world where even those on the fringe are opting for the well worn twin clichés of being ‘rawness’ and ‘distortion’, it’s affirming to be presented with sound worlds of which only their creators truly hold the key. May their infiltration continue.

Simon Docherty