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April 04/15/22, 2022
David Helpling is a California-based musician, guitarist and keyboardist, recording artist and film score composer specializing in ambient music and electronic music. He sonically embraces listeners with his signature guitar sounds and textures, crafted synthesizers, powerful percussive pulses and rich multi-dimensional recordings. His production company is named DHM Music Design.

His new album IN started as a collection of new musical phrases and ideas that were kept together in hopes of becoming his third release. He had just released his second album, which is titled Sleeping on The Edge of The World. He muses, "Before I fully produced any of these ideas I began working with Jon Jenkins… 3 records and 7 years after that our epic trilogy was complete. It took another 8 years after that for me to create and build many of my original concepts and several new ones into what I felt was something special, powerful and my best work. Once I had everything close to what I felt was amazing I sent the entire project to the record label, Spotted Peccary Music."

Howard Givens responded with enthusiasm, but he knew that Helpling could make each piece truly special with some extra attention and the priceless presence of a new set of ears. They worked side by side to produce and mix the Sleeping album, and Helpling realized that moment was a perfect time for the duo to begin to plan to work together on a new project. All these years later, with Howard as co-producer, they took the entire double album from great to amazing. "I cannot describe in words what it felt like when the last track had a final mix," beams Helpling.

Imagine the vast universe as seen through a microscope, represented by symphonic cinematic electronica, through the electric guitar and keyboards, sometimes with transcendent ethereal vocals. This is the sound of unlocking the mysteries of dark waters, creation myths, and revealing things moving across the bright sky, bringing listeners the discovery of unusual and unexpected phenomena. Helpling brings his unmistakable style and dense sound sculptures to a deeper, more powerful and cinematic level.

Before Helpling released his trilogy of epic ambient collaborations with Jon Jenkins, before his shimmering guitar records A Sea Without Memory and RUNE — he had an idea that would evolve to become IN. It was inspired by the tiniest of places, when one square inch of forest holds a world of color and life, when a shard of lichen is a monument, a twig a skyscraper, an arm’s length a universe. What would that SOUND like? Helpling is an artist with a great sense of wonder, and IN captures the exploration of that magic space, as well as inspiring deep listening and introspection about ourselves.

Helpling embraced collaborations for IN, and wielded an impressive array of instrumentation, studio gear and synth on the album, including ambient guitars, the Sequential Prophet 6 Analog Synthesizer and the Waldorf Iridium Digital Polyphonic Synthesizer, and a 1981 Yamaha CP70 Electric Grand Piano, which summons a classic yet fresh organic sound. Matthew Schoening’s electric cello enchants on the track “You Already Are.” Famed Adiemus vocalist Miriam Stockley lends her rich, ethereal vocalizations to “Slipping” and “I Too Am Coming Home,” and multi-instrumentalist Benjy Wertheimer plays the Esraj, an expressive bowed instrument from India on “The Bliss You've Always Carried.” Vocalist Nidhi Bhatmuley gives a soaring performance on the post-rock flavored “This Burning Sky,” an emotional epic that evokes Hans Zimmer’s work with Lisa Gerrard. Through these significant contributions, Helpling has realized a macro-focus on his contemplation of life.

“A lot of attention was paid to detail, mixing and mastering the highly emotive music,” observes Bert Strolenberg of Sonic Immersion. In the New Age Music Guide, BT Fasmer adds that “IN is an exploration of that magic space: an expanse of delicate subtlety and minuscule vibrancy that suggests a poignancy of existence itself,” and a music review in The BEING Blog notes "Cosmic energy is at play. Helpling seems to be communicating with worlds far beyond ours."

Co-producer Howard Givens worked closely with Helpling to explore the hidden nuances of this album and elevate each piece to its final form. Portland fine art photographer Brandt Campbell captured IN’s micro-world in breathtaking macrophotography. Spotted Peccary’s creative guru, Daniel Pipitone, crafted vibrant collectible art, graphics, and packaging.

The visuals call for stunning music videos, and Helpling says he has at least three planned for the rollout. Johno Wells directed the first single's video, "Waves Dream of Breaking," and Helpling released an enigmatic teaser for "This Burning Sky." Spotted Peccary's official album video (below) shares music clips and a preview of the physical CD.

On March 16, Ambient Zone held a Sessions Video Release Party, an 55-minute interview with Helpling discussing the project, which can be heard at https://www.mixcloud.com/ambientzone/sessions-002-interview-with-david-helpling/

"I envisioned sounds and textures that I hadn’t created yet and I was determined to make each piece on the record a stunning work of art that could stand on its own. With such lofty goals, there were many periods of feeling rather defeated when things didn’t turn out as I had envisioned or I struggled to create all of the music that a piece was asking for." Helpling continues, "So, this giant double album was abandoned more than once as I felt so overwhelmed and broken down from the process. Every time I stepped away from it I came back with new energy and hope to get back to completing each piece and to achieve my own high standards."

IN was born from finding wonder in the tiniest of places, nature wrought in new colors. Places where a macro world of beauty surrounds, and micro budding plants and spores are towering colorful structures of a seemingly alien world; the greens and blues of tree and sky replaced by microbial fuchsia, garnished with luminescent folded violets. IN celebrates this notion in a deeply emotional and explosively powerful display in musical form and vibrational intensity as to bring awareness to the self in every listener, the unshakeable notion that going inward within the self is where endless magic, healing and inspiration is nurtured. Self love is more than confidence in one's own integrity, but an embracing of the blindingly bright initial spark that makes the entirety of one's own consciousness. And in doing so, loving that pure, kind and powerful “I am” that eternally burns brighter than any pain, loss or sadness of the human experience can mask. It has always been there and will never be extinguished.

From the first track, "Waves Dream of Breaking" (7:32), we are a gull, soaring wheeling and gliding over an endless ocean, sensing the shore and the sky, with amethyst, emerald and sapphire shades emerging as we soar above the realms of the sea.

Nidhi Bhatmuley has the power to elevate consciousness to the level of the divine, interacting and interlacing with the instrumental modalities which complement one another. Helpling's nimble fingers dance on guitar and piano, starting with gentle ethereal vocals and percussive sensations, enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew, then breaks into a dive, soaring freely and then plunging upwards, the sun is bright and high and the vocals get more energized, new textures visit and vanish. So intensely expansive and so perfectly transparent is the surface of the deep, that we might believe the reflected surrounding universe to be a huge blue liquid ball, and our little spaceship is the one solitary material speck in all creation, floating in the midst of it. Under this gaze, the sky catches on fire. Sky and water merge into a perfectly clean horizon line, "This Burning Sky" (7:20) is an expression of the natural love of life, some inward motions of joy, represents cosmic energies and communication between worlds, fingers on guitar and piano starting off, with gentle ethereal vocals and percussive textures. Our gifted vocalist brings us into high altitude to dive, and then rise again. The sun is bright and high, the vocals get more energized, new textures visit and vanish, and I shiver all over. The radiant orb clears the eastern horizon.

Helpling first worked with Nidhi Bhatmuley when he created the film score for Trade Offs, which immersed him in the music of India. Bhatmuley's wildly expressive and emotional voice brings the character in the story to life. That track originally started with a guitar phrase… Helpling remembers that lonely, tragic piano melody, the chord movements and the synth textures followed it almost immediately. "Once I started working on the drums I really felt a story was being played out that was worth exploring. So with this new story in mind, I set out to create all of the different acts through music… almost like scoring a film that didn’t exist. I knew right away that this story’s one character needed a voice and Nidhi Bhatmuley was the only one I wanted to play the role."

The stunning part is that this surprising beauty is true no matter where you go as you listen. A pattern has been established, cycling melodies break open and gain more altitude, sparkling full orchestral strings sweep over us. My ears part liquid curtains that close again behind me, and my shadow fades swiftly under the water.

We soar ever onward, and these vast plains of sand seem endless. Full orchestral strings sweep over us, a melodic pattern is established, a sparkling and cycling melody breaks open and gains more altitude in "Only What's Been Taken" (6:26). The tiniest sounds are transmitted with a speed to which the ear is unaccustomed; I am always struck by the echo and reverb effects unique to this medium. This sensation is difficult to understand for anyone who has never heard sonic color so sharply defined, the sound of small, thin, white clouds with ragged edges, tinted with fine shades of ultramarine; then, off in the distance, it turns darker blue and fades in the midst of a hazy darkness. Above me, I can sense the calm surface of the ocean.

"Here All Along" (6:24), is denser than the atmosphere on land and almost as transparent, the guitar establishes a pattern, warm electronics build, electric guitar and keyboard scatters on high. Imagine the clouds colored in bright, wonderfully shaded hues, and that vision then slowly fades. Who else but guitarist David Helpling could portray the effects of this light through these translucent sheets of water, the subtlety of its progressive shadings into the ocean's upper and lower strata all the way into the infinite sky?

Melodic spinning bells are struck in a pattern, the guitar joins in, later electronic strings and interesting textures layer or just visit and vanish. Its variety is infinite. "Still As Stone" (6:12) brings sparkling and spinning melodic small bells or chimes, the guitar joins in, later strings and interesting textures layer until the music hits an open spot where things quiet down. There is no empty stillness, there is constant motion and metamorphosis, there is building density and then release returning to the bells and the patterns build and layer all over again.

And you thought rocks had boring existences. There is no empty stillness, actually there is constant motion and metamorphosis, there is building density and then release, returning to the bells and the patterns build and layer all over again.

On the sixth track, Benjy Wertheimer plays the Esraj, which belongs to the chordophones family of stringed instruments. This bowed sonic vehicle is usually heard only in the eastern and central regions of India. It is played upright like a cello with a bow. "The Bliss You've Always Carried" (8:00) is a call and response in the ocean of bliss, fingers on electric guitar strings make patterns, which take form, melodic rainbows weave around the bowed instrument, sounding at times much like a vocal glissando. Midway, a percussive shaker establishes itself. The solar rays easily cross this aqueous mass and disperse its dark colors. Somewhere around midway a percussive shaker establishes itself; planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets all seem to emerge through this magnificent and glorious universe bringing peace and pleasure to all who hear. This dazzling carpet is a vibrant mirror, throwing back the sun's rays with startling intensity. The outcome is an immense vista of reflections that penetrate every liquid molecule.

Multi-instrumentalist Wertheimer is equally accomplished on tabla, congas, percussion, esraj, guitar and keyboards. Helpling had only met Wertheimer through a friend a year or two before completing IN and fell in love with his vibe and artistry immediately. Wertheimer brought the sultry, seductive sound of the Esraj, an Indian bowed instrument, to this piece, which was composed just for his instrument to be featured in.

Miriam Stockley adds exquisite, haunting, ethereal vocals to the next track, absorbing every color of the prism of the sea, except its blue rays, reflecting the latter in every direction and supporting a wonderful indigo tint. "Slipping" (8:00) takes place in a huge open area, decorated with free fall electronica that is rescued by a pattern that comes along, tambourines shake and change happens, the density opens up then returns to the vocal colors. During this crossing, the sonic palette continually lavishes us with the most marvelous sights, intangible and authentic, carried with perfect distinctness in the midst of the floating electronica, starting from a distant point to cross through a huge open area, embraced by a pattern that comes along. Change happens, the density opens up then returns with the vocal colors.

Helpling glowingly reflects, "I reached out to Miriam Stockley in the mid ‘90s as a super fan (even more so now), but didn’t truly connect with her until Jon Jenkins and I were finishing the last record in the trilogy." Stockley has a distinctive solo voice that has graced several film and TV soundtracks including Lord of the Rings. "I had been talking with her on social media and asked her to sing on the title track and what she brought to the piece just brought tears to my eyes." Miriam brought her unmistakable soul-melting voice and techniques to “Slipping” with more sensuality and passion than I can express. She also plays an ethereal role as the shimmering choir and solo voice in the final piece on the album “I Too, Am Coming Home."

Heavy clouds pass above us, an icy studio sound forms and fades, modulated by the changing densities of the long oceanic swells, and breaking crests proliferating over the surface of the water. What creatures inhabit, or could inhabit, these regions?

Sometimes giving off a phosphorescent glow, drifting between a double ultramarine of sky and water. It announces the presence of a pack, or shoal, of ice. "The Cold Distance Between" (5:55) features a keyboard orchestra, continuing the big open sound of the astronomical soaring over the ocean and through the open sky, rolling slowly as the music sweeps along. Mists are rising from the cold surface of the water. The outlines of the continents allow the seas to be divided into five major parts: the frozen Arctic and Antarctic oceans, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. To me this track evokes a frozen sea that opens up a new world of possibilities, now the travelers of time reach a summit of this half-crystal, half-meteor vessel, continuing the open icy studio sound, soaring over oceanscapes and rolling slowly as the music steps along.

Matthew Schoening's electric cello vibrates resonantly, it glides through the watery mass, tension builds and the vista expands. "You Already Are" (6:42) leaves us marveling at these beauties of sea and sky, after emerging like a flying fish, and falling back into the sea, making the glittering waves leap to prodigious heights. Matthew Schoening provides a warm safe blanket of inspirational and healing sound, reflective, refractive, and translucent, it saturates the air and gives such rays the appearance of luminous celestial objects and phenomena, all of which give way to vast spaces of deep and mystifying ambience. Tension builds, the vista expands.

Schoening creates a spiritual and illuminating sonic experience, he is a founding member of the internationally acclaimed world fusion ensemble Ancient Future. He has brought his signature Electric Cello to the epic “You Already Are,” a piece that was created specifically for him to perform on. Helpling said that "Matthew is like me, only using Cello instead of Guitar… he is so damn good and such an amazing artist."

The tenth track, or track 4 on disc 2, folds around what sounds to me like an mbira pattern, and expands into greater depth. At points the beat stops and leaves us shimmering in mid-air, the beat returns and the symphonic patterns build further, perhaps a piano replaces the mbira as the main instrument, "Following the Lines" (5:30). The edge of its light sweeps over the sea in an immense, highly elongated oval, condensing at the center into a blazing core whose unbearable glow, diminished by degrees outward.

Soon the glow no longer simply illuminates the water, it is liquid light, revealing the movements and the beauty of their forms, aerial arcing focus, bells and keyboards that build a melody that stops and starts, builds and releases, alive and at large, I couldn't help seeing the actual shadows of large birds passing overhead, swiftly skimming the surface of the sea. "Bending Towards the Night" (8:21) has a shimmering opening, featuring a high altitude electric guitar in an aerial arcing focus, with bells and keyboards that stop and start, they build and release silver synth zephyr bursts in sequencing lights, the track builds itself out deconstructs and in the end lingers as an endless reverberation.

What an indescribable sight, and what a variety of settings and scenery where these reefs and volcanic islands seem to dance "In Waves of Fire" (5:49). There, in natural wonder, the watery mass offers some thrilling and dreadful scenes to my ears. There is lots of motion, cymbals splash, bells chime and keyboards shuffle, beats stratify, the cycle builds and then explodes and soars into a wider, higher atmosphere.

A hierarchical structure of matter begins to form from minute variations in the mass density of space, and then brings supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, pulsars, and cosmic luminous radiation. A keyboard, a shuffle beat, layers pull in more matter, and organize into groups and clusters of galaxies, then into larger-scale superclusters. There is lots of motion, cymbals splash and the cycle builds and then explodes and soars into a wider atmosphere.

What is the mind’s ultima Thule? What substance must be regarded as first, and therefore as the seed of the universe? What is the eternal Something, of which the temporal is but a manifestation? I imagine that it is the concept of home. The climax track, "I Too Am Coming Home" (6:44), Miriam Stockley provides refreshing reassurance, strength, affirmation, prayers, supernatural portents, angels, and in the end, the mists are dispersed under the action of the sun's rays.

Layers of clouds cloak the sky and leave only a few stars in view. Like the flocks of old Proteus, King Neptune's shepherd, herds graze, bigger and faster than any whales and without fear on the ocean's submerged immense prairies. The entire sky, although lit up by stellar radiation, seems pitch-black in comparison with the whiteness of these waters. As far as the ear can see, the ocean seems universal.

The ocean depths still remain a largely unexplored part of the planet, and form a relatively undiscovered domain. Sonic exploration is about making discoveries, searching for things that are unusual and unexpected, and there is nothing quite like flight: the freedom, the solitude, the beauty. And with the right wind, you can become one with the sky. At our feet: dazzling tracts of silver and white. Over our heads: a pale azure, clear of mists. The uneven surface of the ocean is due to localized gravity effects from mountains and valleys along the depths.

The deepest parts of the ocean are essentially unknown to us. What goes on in those distant depths? Above, the sun shines fiercely in the sky, a ball of fire blazing, invoked by strong studio craft and a superhuman focus on technical precision. This magnificent radiance comes from some force with a great illuminating capacity. In the midst of this placid natural setting, sky and ocean compete with each other in force and tranquility, the sea offers the orb of night the loveliest mirror ever to reflect its image. The listening experience is about making discoveries, searching for things that are unusual and unexpected. Exploration is key to increasing our appreciation of the world of sound.

As I have observed once before, during the release of his previous album Rune, chasing the Ambient Guitar dream is a big one, and Helpling absolutely loves working with synthesizers and samplers. Ancient scholars were forever trying to describe the world, and they came up with their own explanations for why. IN is magnificent and direct, a close up observation, forever unlocking the mysteries where the wonder and excitement of exploration comes from. There is so much love in this music, we trust Helpling to take us to previously unencountered places, some are microscopic and within us, many of them are in deep space, some are under the sea; we venture with him to explore some places in unknown and extraordinary zones or regions of a universe previously hidden, where sometimes dwell huge slow curious creatures no human has ever seen, answering the calls of gigantic celestial whales, and places where shimmering colors progress through rainbows of delight for the ears. You will be rewarded by the wonders emanating from this kaleidoscopic sonic hall of mirrors, IN.

As an accomplished and highly sought after composer of music scores for film, David Helpling is continually honing his compositional skills. “Creating music for film and video projects is wonderful and rewarding…but it also has its limitations. I think the emotional writing and technical experience of scoring certainly gets me closer to the core of what is important in my own music.” As a young teen, David Helpling pushed himself to learn guitar – experimenting with various effects and signal processors to create illusions with sound. Together with his passion for synthesizers and percussion, this guitar sound became centric to a complete vision and musical style that expresses sonic moods with a definite soundtrack feel. “Music is always in my head. That’s how I write. I’m always dreaming.”

My last question, as I gather my quickened thoughts about the Brobdignagian music I have just encountered, "Next?" To which Helpling replies, "I want to make an entire record using only the female voice… multidimensional, special processing and powerfully emotional."

IN
Spotted Peccary Music
https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/in/


TRACKS
DISC 1
1 Waves Dream of Breaking
2 This Burning Sky
3 Only What's Been Taken
4 Here All Along
5 Still As Stone
6 The Bliss You've Always Carried
DISC 2
1 Slipping
2 The Cold Distance Between
3 You Already Are
4 Following the Lines
5 Bending Towards the Night
6 In Waves of Fire
7 I Too Am Coming Home


Links:
Artist Website & Social Links: https://davidhelpling.com/
IN Smartlink: https://orcd.co/helpling-in
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/07E8fEXel4D6n9CxV2kF7G?si=o1qcUeozSge6WU-L3IgANw
Spotted Peccary Album Page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/in/
Bandcamp: https://ambientelectronic.bandcamp.com/