Album of the Month: David Helpling – RUNE


The New Age Music Guide Album of the Month for June 2021 is David Helpling’s “RUNE”! The album takes the listener on an epic journey, deep into the mythical world of the Norse rune Laguz. Guided by ancient wisdom and Helpling’s brilliant ambient guitar, we get a more profound respect for the oceans. “RUNE” is, in short, a mesmerizing view into a mighty yet fragile universe.

David Helpling is a California based guitarist and keyboardist, recording artist, and film composer. He debuted in 1996 with “Between Green and Blue“ followed in 1999 by “Sleeping on the Edge of the World”. Beginning in 2001, Helpling released a trilogy of albums (“Treasure“, “The Crossing“, and “Found“), collaborating with fellow ambient recording artist Jon Jenkins. In 2017 David released the ambient guitar album “A Sea Without Memory“.

Free Dive
The intro to “RUNE” is breathtakingly beautiful; “Free Dive” takes the listener right into the deep end. Helpling uses less than two minutes to introduce us to this strange, alien world. His ambient electric guitar is our diving instructor, assuring us that it is safe to go even deeper. It is an immersive listening experience, many thanks to the rich reverb. I like the structure of the melody, how the fragments all come together in the end – like drops of water forming an ocean.

The rune letter you see in the cover artwork is the letter L, and its name has the meaning of “lake” or “water”. From “Water means life, beauty and the peace we associate it with. The Scandinavian people, however, have known the water under the most threatening conditions: the sea, in the northern tradition, is an irrepressible force, hard to subdue.” As a Norwegian myself, I can confirm that this description. I love how Helpling manages to capture both the life-giving – and life-taking – aspect of the sea. Listen to the song “Under Shallow Seas”, and you’ll understand what I mean. On the ocean, a smooth sail can change into a life or death situation in no time.

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Isle in Half Light
Here I’ll mention a few of my favorite pieces from this album. “Isle in Half Light” is a thoughtful track. Helpling’s music is highly visual, showing how different light settings transform the isle. “The Heart of Us” is the 11-minute long album closer. Its ultra-slow start makes it feel like an EP within the album. It is impressive how Helpling makes the guitar sound like a beating heart.

“RUNE” by David Helpling is a fantastic, inspiring, and in many thought-provoking release. Oceans give life, but it can also take lives. The Norse letter L, known as Laguz, is used as a reminder that having respect for the oceans is nothing new. “RUNE” is, in short, a soundscape you can spend your day in, but remember to come up for air once in a while…

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