Helvetia is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist, Jason Albertini, who is one third of San Jose band, Duster and was the bassist for Built to Spill from 2012 to 2018. Essential Aliens, is Helvetia’s tenth album, due out 25th June on Joyful Noise Recordings.
Since the band’s inception, Jason has continued to employ a rotating cast of band members and collaborators, which now includes Steve Gere and Samantha Stidham. Steve and Jason played together in Built To Spill.
When in 2019, Duster started playing shows and recording again, Jason began writing what would become, Helvetia’s ninth album, This Devastating Map (released August 2020). Post-Trash called it “a constantly shifting project that takes experimental lo-fi into brilliantly colored psych directions with a concise glow.” Then the pandemic took hold. With normal life at a standstill and unable to hang with his bandmates, Jason focused his energy on his daughter’s home-schooling schedule, and recording. He focused on finishing one song a day and was soon honing in on a new album. The songs on Essential Aliens were recorded in Jason’s basement during this time.
Essential Aliens takes all the elements of the Helvetia sound and simplifies them. Basic progressions morph with stoner repetition, drums distort and muted bass lines prop up acoustic guitars, that were recorded blown out on a cassette four-track. Cheap electric guitars are barely kept in tune and are recorded direct, almost painfully in your face. The character of the recordings are informed with warm fuzz and intimate room sounds. The songs are short blasts of psychedelic chill, unrooted by genre, a rummage around an alien radio dial.
The visual elements come from a recurring dream in which Jason’s life is turned upside down by a series of unexplainable events that turn out to be orchestrated by a ghost. He wakes up convinced that he is a ghost as well. The protagonist in the videos spends his time plotting his way back to the living. The ghost’s disguise was inspired by a photograph of children dressed in Great Depression-era Halloween costumes.
These are simple songs about keeping yourself from falling apart – to remind you that you can be strong. This is a weird blues.
Helvetia resides in Portland, Oregon but was formed in Seattle in 2005 after Duster first went on hiatus.