Words and Pictures by Tom Davis
Helena Deland is a relatively new artist and her reputation precedes her, but as she appears on the intimate stage of the Castle Hotel you realise just how young they all are. Helena’s voice has a timeless appeal on record which doesn’t prepare you for the youthful exuberance they display this evening. Perhaps it’s an age thing, but to hear such mature, solid music come from these young musicians is really quite invigorating.
Even though it’s quite clear that Helena Deland has her influences and derivations there is a genuinely cinematic feel to most of her performance, as if they are transporting us to an alternate, glowing, but imperfect future lived through the eyes of an 80s neon-lit, American movie.
The tempo and sounds of the first half of their set get me wanting to take to a dance floor and stomp around, flailing my arms a little. The second half, though, makes me drift in and out of my thoughts and contemplation, some of which I spend shoegazing, other times, transfixed on the band’s intricate and dynamic performance, especially from the drummer and Helena. This is captivating stuff, but I did find myself wishing for a change of pace during the more wistful second half, maybe to just jolt things up again.
The drummer’s abilities are particularly admirable, playing halved beats over a double tempo so naturally, with not one beat missing. The inclusion of the shaker was also a subtle addition that didn’t go unnoticed. The bassist’s natural connection with Helena on stage, as she changed from bass to the synth is great to watch, as well as, of course, her absolutely precision following the drummer, although there are occasions when the bass gets lost in the bed of sound produced by the rest of the band. The generous licks from the lead guitarist are tangibly swirling throughout all the tracks, and changed enough in sound, rhythm and atmosphere to keep it welcoming and interesting.
While the band’s music and their performances really keep everything comfortingly driving along an endless road, Helena’s voice sets the powerful tone and confidently steers where it all goes. There’s not one deviation from one note and the performance is quietly confident throughout. Powerful from the lungs but delicately breathy and soulful into the mic, there is genuine emotion being delivered by the Canadian tonight and this is reinforced by the harmonies provided by the rest of the band.
It’s contemplative at times but this driven, American styled rock from Helena Deland is definitely one to watch.