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David Helpling – RUNE Review

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We are becoming increasingly aware of how important the oceans are to our planet. Not a day goes by without headlines about the state of the seas and how marine pollution affects people all over the world. David Helpling’s new album “RUNE” 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 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“.

This episode of Dream Mixtape is dedicated to David Helpling and “RUNE”: 

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, much 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 next piece is called “Glass”. It is 10 minutes long, but trust me; you’ll hardly notice that time goes by. The song is from start to finish a genuine tour de force. Notice the atmosphere; it is cozy and comforting. But there’s a hint of melancholy too, an undefinable sadness right under the surface. It is tempting to compare it to colored glass; you can see through, yet everything will have a particular color.

Ascension of the Whales
I’m happy to report that there are no sounds of nature on “RUNE”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with washing waves or dolphins chirping, but it has been done a million times before. Helpling’s “Ascension of the Whales” makes us admire these mighty creatures as they majestically glide towards the surface, without using any uninspired whale samples.

“The Black Rock” takes us to a place of magic and mysteries. It has a remarkable ambient melody, and each sound seems to disappear as soon as it is played – yet somehow returns immediately, carried by flowing water. It is a sublime audio design, perfection in every sense.

Be
The best piece on the album is called “Be”. It has Helpling’s signature sound and a masterful build-up. The guitar sounds divine as it guides us even deeper into the unknown. It is upbeat, yet there are no drums. The many layers of sound give the song almost infinite replay value.

The rune letter you see in the cover artwork is the letter L, and its name has the meaning of “lake” or “water”. From Runemeanings.com: “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.

Isle in Half Light
We are back on solid ground on “Isle in Half Light”. It is a thoughtful piece. 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.

In conclusion: “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…

Score: 96/100 – See our scoring policy

For more information and music samples, visit davidhelpling.com