The roots of Keith Kenniff’s Helios project go back to 2001, well before he graduated Berklee College of Music in 2006 (the same year he released the timeless and much-loved ‘Eingya‘) and before he began making piano-based modern classical music as Goldmund or collaborating with his wife Hollie as Mint Julep. It goes back to before he began composing custom music for some of the biggest brands in the world including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Starbucks, Disney, Samsung, & more. The music has evolved over the years and the location has changed (the Kenniffs have been based in Portland, Oregon since 2008), but the composer who deferentially uses “Unseen Music” as the umbrella name for all his projects, still likes to make quiet music at night using the same mini-cassette recorder (“a lovely little imperfect way to treat sounds”). And from those quiet nocturnal experiments comes another sumptuous and warmly enveloping Helios record entitled Veriditas, a title taken from a term coined by medieval abbess and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen as a fusion of two Latin words: green and truth. Though her concepts were quite theological in nature, Kenniff found inspiration in the word’s more abstract connotations.
“While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief, I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.” – Keith Kenniff
This sets Kenniff up to take Helios (and us) on a different kind of journey, one less about following narrative arcs or melodic structures and more about exploring the contours of texture and harmony while allowing the listener to bring the emotional context. In that sense, it is perhaps Helios’ most purely ambient work.
That said, by no means is Veriditas completely formless and abstract. In the liner notes, Kenniff speaks of wanting “to explore emotionality within something more static.” The music may be in a more quiescent state, but like the natural world it seeks to evoke, it develops with an immutable organic flow. One can be still and wide-eyed within these compositions, but inexorably they move in ever-changing, slow-turning cycles. The gorgeous washes of sound and elongated sweeping melodies exemplified on tracks like “Seeming”, “Even Today”, “North Wind”, or “Mulier” are punctuated by captivating moments like the wistful horn sounds of “Eventually”, the haunting nymph-like voices of “Harmonia”, or the warm guitar lines of “Upward Beside the Gale”. No more the nascent composer, Kenniff is a master now and demonstrates it in the way he builds these immersive sonic spaces for the listener to inhabit and contemplate.
In his book “Wildwood: A Journey Through the Trees”, Roger Deakin’ wrote: “To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we are transformed…people go into the greenwood to grow, learn & change. it is where you travel to find yourself, paradoxically, by getting lost.” I would submit that in Veriditas, Kenniff has furnished us with a beautiful musical expression of this experience.
Veriditas will be available from Ghostly International on CD and in two vinyl LP editions, marbled beige (limited) and standard black all featuring artwork by Oliver Barrett. Digital only options are available.