Experimental indie group Helvetia was formed by ex-members of similarly forward-thinking slowcore band Duster. Over the course of the next decade and beyond, founding member Jason Albertini enlisted a revolving group of bandmates as Helvetia's sound moved from hazy indie pop beginnings to unexpected song structures and off-center, home-recorded production on albums like 2021's Essential Aliens.
Helvetia was formed in Seattle in 2005 by Jason Albertini and Canaan Dove Amber. Both had previously played together in the San Jose-based experimental group Duster, and their early efforts with Helvetia seemed a logical evolution of that band's boundary-pushing ideals. They made their debut in 2006 with The Clever North Wind on former Duster member Clay Parton's Static Cult label. They followed it up with The Acrobats (2008) and Headless Machine of the Heart (2009), further evolving into more psych-influenced styles and unusual song structures. Since the band's inception, Albertini has continued to employ a rotating cast of bandmembers and collaborators, including Built to Spill's Jim Roth and Scott Plouf. After a handful of additional releases for Static Cult (full-length albums Helvetia's Junk Shop and On the Lam, as well as rarities compilation Gladness [2001-2006]), Albertini relocated to Portland, Oregon and signed with Joyful Noise Records to release 2012's Nothing in Rambling. A year later, Albertini joined Built to Spill on bass and the two bands continued to share members and tour together, as well as collaborating for a limited-edition flexi-disc single called "Spooky Action at the Sufferbus." Dromomania, Helvetia's eighth LP and second for Joyful Noise, was slated for release in October 2015. Busy with Built to Spill, Albertini returned to Helvetia in 2017 with the Sun Chasers EP. In 2019, Duster reunited and Albertini left Built to Spill and spent a year touring with his former band. Upon returning from Duster tour, he holed up in his home studio and spent the summer recording ninth Helvetia album This Devastating Map with his bandmates Steve Gere and Samantha Stidham. The album was released in August of 2020. Less than a year later, tenth album Essential Aliens arrived, recorded primarily during the COVID-19 lockdown. Albertini had used his time in quarantine home-schooling his daughter by day and recording increasingly more experimental sounds by night. He first set the goal of recording a song a day, and that soon morphed into the psychedelic and twisting tracks that make up Essential Aliens. ~ Timothy Monger & Fred Thomas