[sic] Magazine

Near The Parenthesis – Helical

I never expected to like Near The Parenthesis when first assigned some his music to review. I say ‘his’ as NTP is the recording guise of Tim Arndt, a San Francisco based composer. The information that came along with the promo suggested to me a straight, typical IDM artist, you know, all clever beats and glitches, music to ponder rather than actually enjoy. How wrong I was. Well, not totally. NTP does have clever beats and glitches. It is also beautiful. I didn’t like NTP. I loved it. I fell under its spell and have never missed a release since.

On paper Helical should be even more me. I knew it would be intentionally downtempo and contemplative, imagining beats taking a backseat to melodies – perhaps layers of dreamy ambience. Again I was both right AND wide of the mark. In practice the lack of percussion here is a drawback for two reasons. Firstly it was part what blew me away first time around. Secondly it leaves this album as more or less an exercise in tonality. To be fair I had already expected this second aspect. Having read the press release I knew Helical was a deliberately ambient recording. I knew it was a concept album, such as instrumental albums can be concept albums (they can be, thematically) and I even knew the backstory. Arndt has been delving into his family history and his genealogical studies so far have unearthed some revelations. Helical was envisioned as the soundtrack to these discoveries. As such, I consider it a qualified success.

NTP is at his best when piano scales fall like the pitter patter of raindrops. Helical has its share of such compositions, (‘Hand Off’ being a standout) punctuated by more contemplative drone and ambiance. Keys flicker, synth distortion rises like heat haze across a summer meadow. Strange to think of such naturalistic connections when the artist and artform concerned are so associated with tech. Yet that’s NTP in a nutshell – organic and deeply personal. Being essentially about genetics and ancestry, Helical has Arndt’s DNA all over it in more ways that just the usual. Yet it is also his most ‘Parentheses’ album to date – an understated aside, perhaps to be taken as a departure rather than a signal of things to come. Only this next album can answer this. We identify though. We’re a Parentheses kind of magazine.

Helical is out now on the n5MD label.

Solid pass.