Moonlets/Ben Q. Best

Moonlets/Ben Q. Best Split

This is Hel Audio's introduction to the Tome. All of my coverage of this growing Provo/Orem based label has been exclusive to my other gig Salt Lake City's SLUG Magazine. Because we are here and introductions are always a bit awkward, let's just power through this. Hel Audio was created by Karl Jorgensen (OK Ikumi) and a small collective of experimental electronic musicians in and around Provo, UT. I know what you thinking. Provo? Yes. Provo. If any of you were around during The Compound's heyday or read Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song you will know that there is a refreshingly seedy underbelly to Provo's polished veneer. Hel Audio is neither as trendy-trashy as The Compound or as criminal-tragic as Gary Gilmore, but it does represent the best elements of some of the rich experimental music happening beneath Provo's homogeneous reputation. Hel Audio's releases have recently expanded beyond the Utah Valley and released cassettes by artists out of Austin and Norway.

This split by Utah Valley based Moonlets (Andrew Aguilera/Mooninite) and Ben Q. Best represent a pretty good cross section of what Hel Audio is all about. Moonlet's side is all ARP synth-surfing and glitchy, post-IDM beats that bubble just below the surface. The majority of Moonlet's side are melodic, placid synth and guitar loops that lull and roil. Most of the artists on Hel Audio are united under the exploration of repetition and melody. Moonlets shares this similar affinity for ever-ascending arpeggios and simple, pleasant melodies that mark a majority of Hel Audio's releases and were grandfathered by label head honcho Ok Ikumi. It is within this repetition that it seems like Moonlets never quite turns off. Or was not programmed to turn off.  If it wasn't for a few fluctuations and fades it would sound as if any given song could go on forever, signalling in three-note chords until someone hears it and recognizes our sadness. 

The Ben Q. Best side is a bit more confrontational. His is a hodge-podge of guitar, synth and tape distortion loops that follow a pattern similar to the Hel Audio golden line, before disintegrating or abruptly turning into something else. That something else is a bit hard to define. Tape manipulation, lo-fi synth freak outs and a sample of (what I think is) John Bytheway decrying the evils of 80's Heavy Metal. Ben Q. Best's side does have, however, some of the most beautiful tracks on the cassette. The way far-away guitar lines arc over "Roofaller" or are hollowed out by reverb on "For Based God" are moments of golden symmetry and unexpected shimmering. I also really love the  keyed-up vocal choir sample in "Green for the Inert" that at first listen, sound a bit crassly placed, but once you are pulled into its sway sings sweet as sirens. Plus, it is nice to see some homage payed to the Base God on this record. 

Based world.

At a year old, Hel Audio is probably the most exciting new label to come out of Utah. I know that there is no high bar for a statement like that, but Utah has and is home to tight-knit clusters of like-minded experimental musicians who consistently put out high quality stuff that we are lucky to write about. Ben Q. Best/Moonlets and Hel Audio are a shining example of that.

Ryan H.

August 21st, 2013