Helen Money is the recording name of cellist Alison Chesley. Become Zero was recorded digitally, despite her using analogue recording equipment in the past with Steve Albini. She felt that the range of sounds on offer was wider and easier to build on, manipulate and edit in the digital medium. The album features Rachel Grimes of Rachel’s and Jason Roeder of Sleep and Neurosis. Money has toured with American alternative music royalty in the shape of Shellac, Bob Mould and Nina Nastasia. She also has some admirers on this side of the pond as Portishead asked her to play when they curated the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.
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First time on Thrill Jockey for American dark cellist Helen Money, who is more metal than most metal bands have ever been. Next to her, fellow cellists Apocalyptica sound like Coldplay and Slayer are Bon Jovi. A plea to Helen Money mastermind Alison Chesley - please do a Reign In Blood covers album.
I first heard about her through office magician Joan, who immediately showed me a live video of Chesley hunched over her cello, hair completely obscuring her face, and the most unholy of doom chords being cut from the strings. That’s the mental image that this music will forever conjure - through all the distortion, frantic bowing, and sorrowful passages, she’ll be hanging in the brain, looking evil. Across the course of Become Zero, there are towering Sunn O))) overdriven walls, black metal speed-outs, Godspeed-esque minor dirges and even some yearning choral touches on the 8-minute ‘Radiate’. New depths of misery right here; this will be my winter recluse album.
Some buddies join Chesley this time round, with the drummer from Neurosis Jason Roeder providing some bangs and Rachel Grimes proving ivory tinkles, presumably that’s her at the beginning of ‘Blood and Bone’. All nice touches, but it’s the cello that everyone comes here for, and there are plenty of moments where it isn’t lathered in distortion such as the first half of the mournful ‘Vanished Star’. She flicks on the noise pedal in the 2nd half, don’t worry. It feels a lot like Esmerine if they abandoned their sort of soft melancholy and embraced a despairing scream instead. Lightweights.
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