Decibrity Playlist: Helen Money

Helen Money, aka Alison Chesley, dropped a new album earlier this week via the inimitable Profound Lore Records. As our Brent Burton described in Issue #101, the cellist’s playing is rather unorthodox as she “stretch[es] and distort[s] the possibilities of amplified cello with a bevy of effects.” To celebrate the release of her third record (which, in addition to being recorded by Steve Albini, features Neurosis/Sleep drummer Jason Roeder on four tracks), Chesley put together a playlist for us she simply calls “Helen Money Versus the World”. As she explains, “I have felt like an outsider ever since junior high.

When I first heard these songs and artists, I totally identified with them. They helped me through hard times and also forged my identity as musician. To me all these songs come from a very personal place, but are also transcendent—epic.” After checking out the second track from Arriving Angels below, you can listen along to her picks here.

The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me” (from 1973’s Quadrophenia)
When my brother dropped the needle on Who’s Next, the lightbulb went on over my head. But when I heard Quadrophenia, that’s when it became personal. Music about a mod who on the surface wants to fit in, be cool, but actually just be loved. After listening to this record, I promptly sold my cello for a Lambretta. Fortunately, Mom and Dad got it back.


Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110 (second movement) (1960)
I love this piece and would give anything to write something so brutal and beautiful without the aid of any effects or an amp. He was an outsider himself, persecuted by the Russian government for refusing to write music it approved of. He wrote this piece after reluctantly joining the Communist party and dedicated it to the “victims of fascism and war.”


Minutemen’s “This Ain’t No Picnic” (from 1984’s Double Nickels On The Dime)
I grew up in L.A. and was lucky enough to see these guys play live a bunch of times. I think the hippest thing about them was how weird they were—and they didn’t care. Gave a nerd like me hope.


Sugar’s “JC Auto” (from 1993’s Beaster EP)
The first record that changed my life was Who’s Next, but the second one was probably Copper Blue. Beaster was recorded at the same time as Copper Blue, but it’s way heavier. Just articulated dissolution and anger for me in a really powerful way.


Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train A Comin’” (acoustic) (from 1973’s Soundtrack Recordings From The Film Jimi Hendrix)
I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Jimi Hendrix. Yeah, he was incredibly popular and experienced a lot of success, but I think ultimately misunderstood. Limited by people’s perceptions of him and his music. I love how he plays this song at the end of the documentary on him that came out shortly after his death. It’s so bare and vulnerable and, for me, articulates the hope of every outsider. “I’m gonna buy this town, put it all in my shoe—might even give a piece to you.”


*Order a copy of Arriving Angels here.

**We update one Spotify playlist for each new Decibrity entry, so feel free to subscribe to that here. Past entries include:

Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Shadows Fall
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Meshuggah
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)