"Love and Distance"

Sub Pop

There are moments during the Helio Sequence's "Love and Distance" when a formula seems to emerge: Depeche Mode gets the blues, say, or industrial-rock learns how to wail the harmonica. The concept keeps shifting, however. This Portland, Ore., band doesn't have an abundant supply of ingredients, but its range is impressive -- especially since the group has only two members, singer, guitarist and harmonica player Brandon Summers and keyboardist and drummer Benjamin Weikel.

This is the Sequence's third album, and it moves away from the duo's noisier early style. Yet even the quieter songs don't lack urgency, and such upbeat tracks as "Harmonica Song" swagger like a nimbler version of the Sub Poppers of yore. Summers and Weikel borrow the strategies of dance music, notably looped riffs, cyclical rhythms and chanted lyrics: "I don't care, I don't care, I don't care where I'm going," insists the aptly titled "Repeater." While these coiled patterns propel the music, the live drums and guitar prevent it from becoming mechanical. "Love and Distance" certainly isn't the first album to introduce electronics to guitars, but its adroit synth-rock fusion sounds unusually fresh.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Thursday at the Black Cat with Secret Machines and Neil Hamburger. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Helio Sequence, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)