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Rest You Sleeping Giant releases sound-sampling 'Spirits'

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Ethan Helfrich - SIERRA VANDERVORT
  • Sierra Vandervort
  • Ethan Helfrich
On a Friday night on the southside of Bloomington, as dozens of listeners sit cross-legged on the concrete floors of the collective event space called The Void, Ethan Helfrich stands alone on stage among piles of kick drums, mic stands and guitar cases.

He slowly drags a violin bow across his guitar while a single candle burns at his feet. A black and white video of hazy tree lines and creek beds plays in the background.

His ambient, meditative solo project, Rest You Sleeping Giant, has his audience transfixed.

Helfrich has made ambient music as Rest You Sleeping Giant for over two years now. He's released a variety of demos and soundtracks online, including a split album with the ambient band Ky== and a creative commons release called Coldharvest I.


But, up to this point, Helfrich's music has only been available only online. After uploading six of his projects to his Bandcamp account, his latest album, Spirits, was released on cassette and vinyl on Dec. 16.

Recorded at his home to cassette tapes, the six tracks of Spirits navigate through soft and blissful landscapes that Helfrich describes as "marked by a long and cold journey through a series of hardships."

"I refer to it not necessarily as the album I wanted to put out, but the one that came out of what was going on in my life at that time," Helfrich says.

To create his sleepy sounds, Helfrich uses a variety of effects pedals and loops on his guitar. Some tracks on his new album, like the nearly 12-minute running time of "Left to Decay," contain upwards of 30 different loops to create the specific "wall of sound" often associated with ambient and shoegaze music.

"Shoegaze can be such a subjective term," he says. "But, my definition for it is really anything using a lot of effects pedals. You can listen to a lot of popular albums and hear lots of shoegaze elements."

Some of the many — MANY — pedals - SIERRA VANDERVORT
  • Sierra Vandervort
  • Some of the many — MANY — pedals
A self-proclaimed "pedal nut," Helfrich says he owns upwards of 40 effects pedals. Thanks to his variety of reverb, delay and looper pedals, he can manipulate his guitar to create the ghostly, ethereal sound of Rest You Sleeping Giant.

In addition to effects pedals, Helfrich has taken to using more unorthodox objects to help him create the right sound. Sometimes he'll use a violin bow, a paintbrush or a screwdriver against his guitar to create a glissando effect.

"I love doing stuff like that, because it's very creepy," he says. "It just creates this wonderful atmosphere. Other times I've just smashed my guitars against things; sometimes my shows get kind of weird."

Helfrich also designs and creates the visuals for his shows. His short film Frost was originally an interactive project assignment from one of his classes at Indiana University. The 30-minute film contains a compilation of 15-second clips that Helfrich set to a score of his own airy drones.

As a current graduate student in Human Computer Interaction Design, Helfrich likes to incorporate the element of interaction into his performances. He finds new ways to incorporate lighting, visuals and whatever else he can find to make his music more engaging.

"Whatever I can make that creates this trip, something where you can sit and feel, see or smell, that's what I want," he says. "I want to be an interactive experience."

Ethan Helfrich - SIERRA VANDERVORT
  • Sierra Vandervort
  • Ethan Helfrich
His alternative sound has found a happy home in the unique music scene of Bloomington. From playing among emo and hardcore bands in basements to open mic nights at the local blues joint, the Players Pub, he's found a wide audience of listeners ready to space out with him.

"There are so many different types of music here," he says. "And people are open to lots of different types of music even if you're weird and way out there, and I love Bloomington for that."

His main goal with Rest You Sleeping Giant, he says, is to create a feeling that will resonate with his listeners.

"I like things you can just drop out to," he says. "I want people to kind of space out and be consumed by what is going on," he says.


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