quote from modernist poet Fernando Pessoa adorns the discogs.com page for Eingya. Pessoa, besides being known as one the greats of the 20th century, created a series of heteronyms for himself—different names under which he wrote in various styles. Keith Kenniff is no stranger to this manner of working. He operates under two aliases. The first, Helios, first released an album in 2004 filled with unacknowledged tributes to some of his favorite artists—most notably Boards of Canada. His album last year under the alias Goldmund offered up a set of (mostly) solo piano tracks that reveled in the possibilities inherent in repetition and mistakes. Eingya finds Kenniff back as Helios for a painstakingly constructed record that moves between a number of electronic-oriented genres—and one that is a strong step up from both.
The highlights are numerous: opener “Bless This Morning Year” is a mission statement, somehow supplanting Unomia in one fell swoop of tinkling piano notes, guitar strum, wooly synth drone, and patchwork drum loops. “For Years and Years” is almost too good. You’d think it was cloying, if the piano break wasn’t dampened the host of instruments that come in to give it weight and obscure it at the same time. “Paper Tiger” picks up the pace, featuring what sounds like a drum kit workout behind Helios’ now typical guitar counterpoint and synth additions—like a lost Sonna B-side, it evokes the more pleasant side of post-rock. Showing that the last third of the record doesn’t let up, “Toy Garden” melts one of Kenniff’s best drum patterns on the record into the ever-shifting pool of yawning keybs.
It’s not hard to tell that Kenniff has a thing for Boards of Canada (who doesn’t?). You can also hear Fennesz in the molasses drone of “Vargtimme” or Four Tet in “Coast Off.” But this time around, they’re not tributes. “Coast Off” patches a National Geographic Channel chorus of women into its final third, while “Vargtimme” smoothes out the uneasiness and ends on a hopeful note. It’s this optimism that separates Kenniff from his contemporaries. BoC made their name trading in existential dread, Kenniff is making his by doing the opposite.
The thing that raises Eingya above its predecessor, and many other albums fishing around in the same ambient pond, is the upgrade in production. Whereas Unomia was simple and direct (here’s a synth, there’s one on top, and…the drums), Eingya is more complex and unpredictable. On “Dragonfly Across an Ancient Sky” you can hear the difference: plucked piano, a wavering and impatient orchestra sawing away in the background, a guitar melody takes over, melding nicely with the horse-clop drums. Each element is interesting in its own right, but when Kenniff expertly weaves them in and out of one another, the whole thing enters onto another plane. One I think they call masterful.