- Two reissues that underline Hecker's formidable talent.
- Few artists have transcended the trappings of noise like Tim Hecker. Since the turn of the '00s, he's found success rarely afforded to uncompromising experimental producers. That owes something, no doubt, to the range and ambition of his work. 2011's Ravedeath, 1972 made powerful use of a church organ. Love Streams, released in 2016 by 4AD, ably fused Icelandic choirs, medieval motifs and electronics. On 2013's Virgins, "Hecker's songs now feel like architectural structures," said Ian Maleney.
Through it all, Hecker's liberal use of abrasive signal processing remains his trademark. Even when the drones are warm and harmonious, they're never far from stuttering interference, high-frequency static or ominous low-end rumble. It's a signature touch that pushes his ostensibly ambient music to the foreground. Ahead of a forthcoming album on Kranky, the Chicago label has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the roots of this approach by reissuing Hecker's first two LPs, 2001's Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again and its successor, Radio Amor.
For all the challenging shapes and artful distortion, the core of Hecker's style is emotion. "The Work Of Art In The Age Of Cultural Overproduction" yowls with hope and longing as it courses its way through the middle of Haunt Me, battling slabs of overdrive and scraping metal to push its harmony into your brain. "(They Call Me) Jimmy," from Radio Amor, has a strangely uplifting lilt to its ascending melodic progression even as it faces down the gnashing jaws of distortion and deconstruction.
Not everything is as visceral in its sound design, nor explicit in its emotional orientation. "Boreal Kiss" plays out low key, melancholic strokes of glassy synthesis with a light touch, the space in the mix drawing the ear further in to marvel at the microcosms of interference crackling around the lingering notes. "Borderlines" radiates an autumnal cosiness in its hazy melodic modulations, but its effect is ambiguous, lingering somewhere between comfort and mystery.
Hecker's music has only grown more confident over the years, and even between Haunt Me and Radio Amor the difference is noticeable. The ideas are more boldly defined on the latter, from the grainy piano struggling through an errant receiver on "I'm Transmitting Tonight" to the towering drone swell of "7000 Miles." Each idea is succinct and ably executed, not least the playful bend, stretch and disfigurement of "The Star Compass."
"I feel more like a child at play than an actual theologian promising anything," Hecker told FACT in 2016. "I see [sound] as a plastic material to mold with rather than provide answers, I guess." Immersing yourself in these two LPs doesn't yield profound meaning. It's instead about appreciating the shape and movement of sound, its colour and timbre. Music operating in the fields of noise and drone often bypass the heart on their quest for textural oblivion. Hecker, however, left his in—it's scattered all over these remarkable albums, and their successors, as a focus for the needlepoint detail of his chosen techniques. His approach and palette may be grander now than they were back in the early '00s, but in the confines of this smaller soundworld the depth and beauty are staggering.
Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again
01. Music For Tundra Part 1
02. Music For Tundra Part 2
03. Music For Tundra Part 3
04. Arctic Lover's Rock Part 1
05. Arctic Lover's Rock Part 2
06. The Work Of Art In The Age Of Cultural Overproduction
07. October Part 1
08. October Part 2
09. Ghost Writing Part 1
10. Ghost Writing Part 2
11. City In Flames (In 3 Parts) Part 1
12. City In Flames (In 3 Parts) Part 2
13. City In Flames (In 3 Parts) Part 3
14. Borderlines Part 1
15. Borderlines Part 2
16. Boreal Kiss Part 1
17. Boreal Kiss Part 2
18. Boreal Kiss Part 3
19. Night Flight To Your Heart Part 1
20. Night Flight To Your Heart Part 2
01. Song Of The Highwire Shrimper
02. (They Call Me) Jimmy
04. I'm Transmitting Tonight
06. 7000 Miles
07. Shipyards Of La Ceiba
08. Careless Whispers
09. The Star Compass
10. Azure Azure
11. Trade Winds, White Heat