Although Altered Realities is just his second album, Erdem Helvacıoğlu is a young artist who's kept himself rather busy. He's released tracks on a slew of compilations, has collaborated with artists like Kevin Moore and John Wilson, and continues to compose for theatre, film, multimedia productions along with producing music for artists in his home country of Turkey. His previous release was the field-recording A Walk Through The Bazaar as part of the Met-Life series, but his newest album finds him moving in an entirely different direction altogether.
Recorded in real-time directly to DAT, this seven song, fifty-three minute release finds Helvacioğlu playing a series of acoustic guitar tracks enhanced with electronics. Whereas a lot of artists might use such a setup as an excuse to get completely crazy with processing, the nice thing about Altered Realities is that it has a solid musical foundation to start from, using processing (including the great Audiomulch, which has longtime been a favorite of Kieran Hebden) as a way to accent the sonics themselves, sometimes providing nothing more than a small flourish, while at other times transporting it to places that it could have never gone on its own.
"Bridge To Horizon" opens the release, and wisely starts things off in very subtle ways. Short guitar phrases build up and final notes ring out, and as the track progresses these final notes turn into shimmering clusters and eventually build into a powerful wash of repetitive tones while the original guitar continues beneath it all. "Frozen Resophonic" starts out in an alien world, adding various resonating filters to the notes at the beginning of the track before stuttering notes and glitchy fragments filter down through the open spaces as it progresses. One of the album highlights is the warm "Shadow My Dovetail," which sounds something like the work of Robin Guthrie being sent through a wind tunnel, as delicate guitar melodies swarm and bend and shoot out into pitch-bent bursts of sound.
With seven tracks running just over fifty minutes in length, Helvacioğlu veers between delicate sustained single notes and blown-out blasts of granulated sound that recall the work of Christian Fennesz and other guitar-based laptop dabblers. At times, it's mellow enough to veer close to new age, and in other places it blows up enough that it pushes into white noise. Because of the software and filtering used, there is a sort of similar feel that runs throughout, but because of the dynamic shifts and threat of sonic destabilization and destruction, it also manages to keep a listener engaged.