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Helios [various titles] (Unseen Music) FLAC/CD

Keith Kenniff makes music for commercials and corporate presentations. He scored Facebook’s Paper app launch clip and 10-year anniversary “A Look Back” video, and has provided backing music for iPhone spots in the UK.

Aside from his commercial work, Kenniff has several musical alter egos. Among them is Helios.

Helios is predominately instrumental and synthesizer-based, but it’s possibly the most organic and natural electronic music out there. Yet it’s not what I would call “new age” (let’s you and I pretend that might not rhyme with “sewage”). This is keyboard-heavy material, with lots of reverb, sustained tones ’n drones and overlapping textures. Beats? Kenniff is more than adept at tweaking electronic rhythms until they sound like anything but drum machines. There’s piano and acoustic guitar, but it’s mixed in such a way that everything just melds. Occasionally Keith’s wispy filtered vocals float atop it all.

Sometimes Helios’ output recalls the mood of the quieter instrumental passages of pre-suck Peter Gabriel (3rd and 4th albums, specifically). It’s quiet, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful music. It works magic in the background but more than holds its own during active listening, too. It’s excellent for long car trips, commutes, walks in the woods and quiet nights brooding in front of the fire (um, or so I’ve been told). I don’t often think of albums in terms of their versatility, but practically speaking, the Helios catalog resembles a very useful musical toolbox when an array of aural implements becomes necessary.

There are six Helios albums plus a remix project. Most are available on FLAC and MP3 via Keith’s label site. The LPs are all out of print, but some CDs are available.

If you like Helios, there’s a good chance you’ll be into Keith’s 2012 solo album on the Village Green label, Branches. He also contributed the score to the 2010 documentary The Last Survivor:

In 2011 Kenniff organized and released For Nihon, a download-only (a 2xCD set is out of print) compilation benefiting the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. It contains 38 songs exclusive to the release, with contributions from Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick, Christina Vantzou, Adam Wiltzie & Dustin O’Halloran, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd and over two dozen more musicians. It costs only $15 and all profits go to the fund. You can find For Nihon on the Unseen Music site.

Unseen Music
Helios on Facebook
Helios on Twitter
Keith Kenniff on Soundcloud
Unseen Music on YouTube