Published Feb 11, 2014For those of us who have strange, vivid dreams, sometimes accompanied by somnambulism and other nocturnal adventures, there are a series of tests that can be performed on the dream universe to determine its veracity. Light switches tend to behave oddly; facial features and words tend to be similarly nebulous. But the surest way to tell if you're dreaming is always the atmosphere: neither solid nor liquid, impossible to move quickly in, dream air (and water) is characterized by a syrupy viscosity. It's strangely breathable, thickly frustrating, undeniably alien.
On their third full-length record, Seattle-based riff-mongers Helms Alee have managed to channel the specific density and frightening strangeness of this dream atmosphere with eerie perfection. Sleepwalking Sailors is part nautical voyage, part dreamscape. The drumming provides the oceanic depths, with rhythmic swells that scatter and break, wild as waves; the broad bass lines are as thick as frayed ropes and the guitar tone has a fat, crunchy, half-frozen quality. Taken together, these elements create a record that is at once filled with razor sharp, precise imagery and the vague, unknowable atmosphere of a dream. It is unquestionably their finest, and strangest, work to date. (Sargent House)