It's hard not to marvel at the mystery and splendor of life on earth after watching a new video from the Portland, Ore. ambient-rock band, Helios. "Pearls" follows a group of four friends on a late-summer road trip as they stop to skateboard in the mountains, hike, and frolic in a swimming hole. One of them documents each moment with his smartphone, eventually ending the day on a beach at dusk, where, with his friends surrounding him, he gets some sort of distressing call. Is it a breakup? It's never clear. But as the camera pulls back, far away, the man is suddenly very alone on the beach, surrounded by a vast, mountainous landscape. It's an otherwise innocuous moment that seems to say, "We are small and our problems don't amount to much."
Keith Kenniff, who writes and records as Helios, says the video and song attempt to raise questions about identity and meaning in a digital age. "We collect hundreds of images on our phones," Kenniff tells us via email. We "check our social media accounts during any spare moments we may have to see if someone has 'liked' our posts so we can experience that rush of temporary endorphins. But in the end, the moments we are capturing/sharing leave us feeling disjointed and disconnected from our actual emotional goals, family structure and surroundings."
Kenniff says the restlessness that drives people to over-share could be their undoing. And as the video for "Pearls" ends, each moment is played again - the hiking, skateboarding, swimming - but there's only the one man with his phone, utterly alone. Perhaps he was alone all along and the friends were entirely imagined.
"Pearls" is from the latest Helios album, Yume, out now on Unseen Music.