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Over his first three albums, Homeshake’s Peter Sagar followed his own idiosyncratic vision, a journey that’s taken him from sturdy guitar-based indie-pop to a bleary-eyed take on lo-fi R&B. Now, with Helium, Sagar is putting down roots in aesthetic territory all his own.
It comes through not only in the gauziness of the production, but also in the vulnerability of the songs themselves. Everyone Sagar encounters here — including himself — seems to be a step removed from present reality, whether by technology (“Anything At All”), solitude (“Just Like My”), or sweet fantasy (“Like Mariah”). The record is stitched together by a series of instrumental interludes, synthesizer explorations whose haziness adds to the suspicion that this is all an uncanny dream.
Where his previous three records were recorded directly to one-inch tape in a local studio, Helium was recorded and mixed by Sagar alone in his apartment in Montreal in early 2018. Freed of the rigid editing process he’d endured before, he was able to lose himself in pursuit of tone and texture. A budding interest in ambient and experimental music pushed him to tinker with the micro-sounds that surround the songs here. It’s a far cry from the chorus-laden guitars of his earlier work. “Ever since I started introducing synthesizers into my music, I’ve gotten more interested in texture,” he says. “I’d hit a creative dead end [with guitars], so synths took over.” The warm chords of a Roland Juno 60 form the album’s base, and gave him a clean palette with which to work. “No tape hiss, no humming power outlets and shitty mixing boards,” as he puts it. “Everything just came out nice and pure.”