Personnel: Jason Albertini (vocals, guitar); Jim Roth (guitar); Sam Stidham (bass guitar); Canaan Dove Amber, Zeke Howard (drums).
Recording information: Basement Trips Studio, Portland, OR.
As with the rest of Helvetia's many albums, there's something more than a little bit off about Dromomania, but in a delightful way. While sticking to a standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals lineup, the group creates skewed, abstract indie pop songs that often include unpredictable time signatures or surreal transitions. There are plenty of head-scratching juxtapositions, such as the combination of soft vocals and grossly distorted electric guitars on "The Rubber Maids," which opens with noisy, proggy bashing before settling into a breezy motorik groove. The songs often feature fragmented riffs that briefly bring to mind familiar melodies, such as the mutated Kinks-isms of opener "Bermuda," but they never sit still and are constantly evolving. Despite the unpredictable nature and odd sonic combinations, the group clearly has a mind to write pop songs, and some of the album's best moments are the ones that play things a bit more straightforwardly. "A Dot Running for the Dust" is simply magnificent, mixing pleasantly crunchy drums and atmospheric organ-sounding guitars with a sturdy hook ("the ghosts will probably try") and spacy effects fluttering away in the background. "Psychomagic" shifts between several different rhythms, dreamily crossfading between steady live drums and punchy electronic beats. "Olaf" features pounding uptempo drums, scratchy riffs, and eerie whistling effects, resulting in a strange Dr. Who theme-gone-glam hybrid (and no, it does not sound like the Timelords' "Doctorin' the Tardis"). "Pink Finish" sets one of the album's more sentimental melodies over trippy, funky drums and snake-like guitars that seem to squirm in at random. Scrappy roots rock anthem "Feeling the Warm Hair" ends the album with a homely, catchy melody covered in ungodly guitar noise. Equally perplexing and grin-inducing, Dromomania is charmingly odd without being too esoteric or off-putting. ~ Paul Simpson