It is fair to say that over the past year most of us have spent more time inside our homes than ever before. As a former commuter now working remotely, I’ve embraced the adjustment quite willingly, but it has still been a profound change in many ways. No longer walking in late with the brain whirring from a day full of outside interactions, there is more time to notice sounds from the birdsong outside the kitchen window in the morning to the din of yard equipment and delivery trucks in the afternoons. And there is more time to notice the way shifting light changes the atmosphere of a room throughout the arc of the day.
As a someone who maintains a quiet life that revolves around his family and his music and has been working at home for many years, composer Keith Kenniff has processed this experience to a deep enough extent that he is able to express it in musical terms. His latest release as Helios is very much in the spirit of Brian Eno‘s seminal ambient work Music For Airports transposed to a domestic context. Whereas Eno’s work was “intended to induce calm and a space to think” in a bustling setting, Domicile is conceived for the safe space of home and designed “gently color the day or accompany an activity”.
The warm, earthy colors and open architecture of Matthew Woodson’s cover art sets the tone before even a note is played. It is an inviting image that radiates order, harmony, and domestic tranquility, a feeling that is reinforced as Kenniff’s unhurried music introduces itself. Somber organ tones slowly swell, undulate, and fan out as if to signal to the listener they are crossing the threshold into a sanctuary. One by one, the remaining pieces patiently unfurl with varying shades of light and color. Unobtrusive and unstructured, they are abstract distillations of the essence of home and the small things that nourish our sense of well-being – light coming through a window to cast shadows on the floor, the gentle smile of a loved one from across the room, or simply just a moment’s peaceful reflection. There is no narrative here, nor is that the intent. Just the sense that we are where we ought to be and that everything is going to be okay, and that is no small thing.
“I wanted to write an album that inspired calmness and reflection; something specifically designed to be listened to at home, either alone or within the closeness of our inner circles. As we are all currently subject to lives of lockdowns, intermittent flux, and general philosophical upheaval, my hope is that this music can be a safe space to go to without judgement or expectation, without anxiety or stress. Sometimes time and space can reframe the way we see things and if we step back for a moment perhaps we will be able to step forward again with more purpose and determination.”Keith Kenniff, aka Helios