HELVETIA is the current musical doings of fine lo-fi songsmith Jason Albertini, otherwise known to your American alt.rock-lovin’ ears as precisely 33% of San Jose’s Duster; and time spent wisely as bassist for the glorious Built to Spill for six years from 2012 to 2018.
His new lockdown basement album is out just over a fortnight from now on Joyful Noise; it’s entitled Essential Aliens, on which particular trip he’s joined aboard by former Built to Spill fellow crew member Steve Gere; and Samantha Stidham, too.
When near-legendary Duster came off that years and years-long hiatus in 2019, the creative floodgates opened; and as well as recording new material for that band, Jason also found himself writing what would become Helvetia’s ninth album, This Devastating Map, last August. He had the groove on.
Then … c’mon you know, you were there too. It begins with pandem-. Abruptly confined, he focused on home-schooling his daughter and setting himself the task of putting together a song a day; another album took shape in the basement.
That album, Essential Aliens, takes the Helvetia sound and simplifies it. It’s stripped back, occasionally raggedy, and all the more resonant for it. Cheap acoustics overload the four-track, drums shuffle, electric guitars teeter on the tuner’s red bar. Short, sweet tunes for y’all.
He’s already released a brace of uncombed, untucked gems from the forthcoming album: the straight-down-the-line fuzz essential “New Mess” popped onto our plates in April; and was followed by the spookily attired shuffle of last month’s “Rocks On The Ramp”.
And there’s time for one more teasing basement serenade before the album arrives; you can watch the through-the-TV-screen video for the raggedy and plaintive “Does It Go Backwards” below; gentle, just-in-tune guitars couple with stream-of-consciousness lyrics: “Maybe if we were closer to the line … ” the recurring hook. Loving that haunting pseudo-slide that breaks out just as the song ends.
“These,” we’re told, “are simple songs about keeping yourself from falling apart. To remind you that you can be strong. This is a weird blues.”
Helvetia’s Essential Aliens will be released by Joyful Noise digitally, on yellow and white clear splatter vinyl, and on ‘ectoplasm clear’ vinyl, on June 25th; you can place your order here.