Helena Deland 

Chivi Chivi * 2022

There’s a weight to the softness of Helena Deland’s voice on her latest single, “Swimmer” that lends an eerie vastness to the stripped back singer-songwriter vibe. “Swimmer” begins with the rolling sound of waves, thunder, or wind, establishing a blown-out atmosphere that is cut so smoothly with the entrance of Deland’s voice before any other instruments come in. For those first 14 seconds, it’s just her voice in the storm: “the sun has hardly warmed the water when it… crashes on the sand,” landing the suspension in her delivery as an acoustic guitar joins the mix. 

The guitar’s organic feeling is intensified by the subtle squeaks of chord transitions and finger pads plucking the strings. For such a simple song, “Swimmer” has a vibrant tone that is only accentuated by the thoughtful phrasing of the melody. The arrangement includes padded harmonies and restless vocal countermelodies that hold tension even as the main melody resolves itself. It closely mimics the melancholy of moving through life, finding and losing the thread repeatedly: “the warmer waters get the more the oceans expand.”

For me, remarkable music is the kind that evokes an existential response, which may be different for everyone. Oftentimes it’s less direct than making you feel a certain way, and more like [insert metaphor about breadcrumbs, lighthouses, blinking christmas lights, etc.] tuning your awareness towards the subliminal: “You say ‘Look at this, the world still spins and beauty will never go, It was there before and will be there more when there’s no I to behold’.”

Deland’s lyrics are poetic, and that musicality carries the song’s momentum. Produced by Ouri and engineered by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Jerusalem In My Heart), “Swimmer” is polished without needing to be stacked with instruments and effects. Instead, there is space to consider: “If I could make this last, take more of this moment, trade in some of my past.” It sounds like the makers of this song were able to hold on to the thread of what it could be and honour the cohesion. “Swimmer” is a beautiful example of how some of the simplest executions can hold the most weight.

iskwē & Tom Wilson 
Mother Love