The self-titled sixth album by The Helio Sequence began with a friendly competition. Several of the duo’s friends within the Portland, Oregon music scene had been playing “The 20-Song Game.” The rules were simple, playful and ambitious: Songwriters would arrive in their studios at prearranged times and spend all day recording 20 complete songs. When they were finished, they’d have a party, listen to the results and talk about the process—of taking the good with the bad, of letting creativity push past constraint, of simply making music in the moment. Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel took the spirit of the “The 20-Song Game” to heart, and forged ahead writing a new record.
“Negotiations was a very long, introspective process,” remembers Summers of the band’s 2012 Sub Pop LP. “We shut ourselves off from the world and disappeared down the rabbit hole. That’s how we tend to work, but we wanted to try something new, open and immediate.”
In a sense, The Helio Sequence had spent their whole career preparing for this record. They’d sunk entire recording advances into studio purchases, collaborating with local engineers to build custom gear and a space where they could blend high fidelity with kaleidoscopic sound. In 2013, the pair took on their first full-scale production project, the Brazilian rock band Quarto Negro, after the group inquired about their space and availability through Facebook. As producers, they’d remixed Shabazz Palaces, picked up mixing sessions with Portland acts and earned representation from Global Positioning Services. Summers and Weikel discovered just how adaptable and powerful their studio could be.
In May of 2014, inspired by the “20-Song Game”, they began arriving each morning in their Portland space—housed in the cafeteria and break room of an old warehouse— with the mission of making as much music as possible in one month. They began exploring and capturing, recording guitar riffs and keyboard loops, drum patterns and bass lines