One of the greatest things about recreational cannabis is its ability to open your mind and look at things from another angle. This is why cannabis is the perfect companion for Helen America’s multimedia project, Red Sun.
Helen America’s Red Sun is trippy as hell and not for everyone. But not for everyone in the best way, because everyone kind of sucks these days. But if you’re looking for a multimedia adventure to blow your cannabis-fueled mind, Red Sun will deliver.
Red Sun by Helen America
Seattle-based Helen America is a renaissance woman. She’s a cartoonist, a zine-maker, and a musician. Red Sun isn’t just an album, it comes with an accompanying booklet of original artwork. Staring at weird art while listening to weird yet meaningful music is a stoner’s favorite past time, so if you’re into that kind of thing, Red Sun is definitely for you.
“We Are All Mice”
The first single from the album is “We Are All Mice,” an operatic, orchestral, cinematic, and grand track. An ambitious departure from America’s more whimsical previous work which can fairly be described as freak-folk.
“This is one of my favorite songs on the album,” America said about the track. “It is maybe the thesis statement of the whole thing and is about climate change and the behavior of humans.”
The song showcases America’s impressive vocal range and her lyrics paint a vivid picture that makes her background as a visual artist come into clear focus.
America sings, “We are all mice, we rise with broken teeth and broken eyes, to stretch our necks and fill our bellies with bright lights that taste of future and life.” Reminding listeners or our primal mammalian roots. We are no better and no worse than the invasive rodents we despise.
Tracks like “Dynamite” return to America’s more sweet and simple folksy roots. Though they do so with noticeably improved vocal control.
“This is one of my secret favorites, it’s up-tempo and fun and weird and I love singing it,” America noted about the song. “I’ve always wanted to write a song in the vein of vaguely-menacing-sexual-come-on, so naturally I wrote one with a banjo ukulele. It is full of literary references and cycles through all the major chords in every verse.”
The track provides a nice juxtaposition to the heavier tracks like “We Are All Mice,” “Pygmalion,” and “Thelxipeia.”
Red Sun isn’t an album you just put on in the background, it’s a work of art to experience. The accompanying art booklet helps tell the story of the songs and provides context and elaboration.
Her lyrics summon images of rising seas, monsters, and fairies in equal parts. The accompanying artwork helps illustrate these images, in a sparse style that leaves room for interpretation and imagination. The album cover features winged human creatures feasting on some kind of bloody flesh, which is a great synopsis for the feel of the album.
Art for Art’s Sake
Red Sun is completely original, and refreshing in its lack of commercialism. Helen America created this art because she had to, not because she wants to be anything to anyone, and it’s remarkable.
Modern artists create so much of their work with an audience in mind. Gone are the days of artists stewing away alone in their rooms creating for the sake of creating it.
These days everyone that can select a filter on Instagram thinks they’re an artist. Real creatives often get left behind.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how social media has changed art and music in particular. Yes, it’s provided a platform for some, but it has also filled in a lot of the empty spaces where art creation thrives. The boredom and angst and drive to make something can get blotted out by likes on a picture you took with your pocket supercomputer.
Helen America’s prolific output is proof that she’s not as affected by digital gratification as the rest of us. The world should be grateful that artists like Helen America still have the discipline to create without the distractions of the digital age.
Photo credit Kevin Skiena