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Jason Roeder




Helen Money is the “experimental” alter ego of virtuoso cellist (and former Verbow member) Alison Chesley. Alison, using various unconventional techniques, effects pedals, overdubbing and studio trickery, creates music that is, at once, calming and disturbingly harsh. ARRIVING ANGELS is the third Helen Money record… it rocks. If you didn’t understand that first sentence, let me just say: “It’s a cello. It’s all cello. A cello that’s looped, distorted, manipulated and overdubbed to sound like a veritable metal guitar army.” That estimation is borne out on the opening track, “Rift,” which is loud, abusive, percussive and… awesome! “Upsetter” begins with ominous bass string plucking that leads to a conflict/resolution horror soundtrack thing, with soft, almost pastoral sections alternating with scary, frantic sections. The first time, really, that the cello actually sounds like a cello is during “Beautiful Friends.” While not as overtly heavy as some of the other numbers, the dynamics and the addition of drums (supplied by Neurosis’ Jason Roeder) make it just as memorable. “Radio Recorders” is a song built on tonalities… and the guitar riff from the Sweet’s “Action.” Amid the super-heavy drums, atmospheric layering and massive power chords, the slower passages feature some cool backward soloing from Chesley. It’s a definite favorite from this record.

Helen Money (Alison Chesley) (photo credit: TRAVIS MCCOY)
Helen Money (Alison Chesley) (photo credit: TRAVIS MCCOY)

Midwestern Nights Dream,” a Pat Metheny cover, utilizes a single plucked cello for a very pastoral – and somehow quite evocative – vibe. This is the tune that’s gonna have all of the bass and cello nuts fist-pumping and yelling, “That’s muh JAM!” A plucking, droning, orchestral thriller movie sound informs the first three minutes or so of the title track. From there, things erupt into a wicked loud solo, followed by more Jimmy Page/Jimi Hendrix style hammering abuse. Overall, “Arriving Angels” is a very powerful piece of music that must be heard to be believed. “Schrapnel” (yeah, that’s how it’s spelled) is a beautiful, somnambulistic crawl with cracking, echoey drums from Roeder and a cool, droning groove. Dennis Luxion adds minimal minor key piano to “Runout,” a tune highlighted by a gigantic drum sound and Alison’s guitar hero wizardry bookending some major-case droning feedback. A good measure of the overall sound of ARRIVING ANGELS is due to the legendary Steve Albini but, make no mistake – this music is chilling and thrilling and totally exquisite. And that’s all about Alison Chesley. Or Helen Money. Or, maybe, a bit of both.