Helen Money & Will Thomas – Trace

Thrill Jockey / LP/CD/DL / 2023

Helen Money & Will Thomas Trace Anxious Magazine

One step at a time… Alison Chesley, or the fearless Helen Money occupies a special niche in my heart. This may sound moronic and I’m probably exposing myself now, but I tend to reach for “Become Zero” when I need someone to hold me. It is known – a hermit like me rarely has the chance to do so… That cello sound gives me the kind of tenderness that even a wounded bitch from a shelter wouldn’t run away from. The heat, smoldering in her compositions, let’s take for example the first, random “Radiate” piece from the aforementioned album, would melt tungsten rods. Despite the fact that Alison is known for punctuating soothing, ear-tucking fabrics with barbed wire – a propensity she probably fueled while still at the side of those who don’t fuck with their dancing – Jarboe, Steve Von Till or Jason Roeder ( drops in a vast ocean of collaborations) – her talent for warming the occasionally suffering hearts is unprecedented.

Will Thomas, on the other hand, despite having stirred the pot with Helen’s spells before, appeared to me as a master of music for commercials and average films. True, he had his episode as a creator of wide-ranging IDM on behalf of the London-based Hydrogen Dukebox label, but the whole thing somehow escaped me in the maze of other, more experimental stuff. Don’t get me wrong, Aphex Twin and his most splashy works would even be comparable, but one simply doesn’t have time to dwell on the “averages”. The day is too short, music is constantly being born, and there are almost eight billion people in the world, but…

What the two of them have executed here is absolutely phenomenal and perfected to the last note. The visions of the two composers are getting along better than the cogs in a swiss watch. From number 1 to number 11, we run through practically every noteworthy genre. Classically trained Helen is absolutely unafraid to push an entire convention to the edge of the abyss, only to brutally push it over and watch as, instead of shattering on the rocks, it gently settles on the surface of a lake. This railing on the verge reminds me a bit of Natalie Portman’s somewhat cringe-inducing role in Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” It demonstrates that almost every beautiful and valuable thing in this world is paid with suffering… That the greatest works are created in the deepest, darkest recesses of people’s minds and are born out of the most pent-up desires.

Getting back to earth, I would love to hear this album performed at the Cathedral in Wrocław during the Industrial Festival, also making a polite request for the booking here and now ;).

I suppose “Tilt” may, admittedly, violate the integrity of the vault, but when I think to myself that I could shamelessly warm my face in it, the feeling is worth any demolition.

The album itself looks rather sinusoidal, of course, it’s not about the weight of the songs in a qualitative sense, but the sheer emotional weight and atmosphere. Melancholic strings give way to technical loot, minimal passes smoothly into ambient. Each number tells a separate story but when played in the order scheduled by the artists, they tend to write a fairly coherent scenario.

The kind that makes a person not want to leave the cinema at all…

released May 12, 2023

Marta Podoska