- The second of two albums drawing from traditional Japanese gagaku music.
- Released within a year of one another, Konoyo and Anoyo, Tim Hecker's two most recent albums, cannot avoid comparison. Both draw from the same Japanese studio sessions, in which Hecker and sound engineer Ben Frost worked with members of the Tokyo Gakuso ensemble, musicians who specialize in the traditional Japanese court music known as gagaku. Even the album's titles suggest symmetry: konoyo translates to "the world over here," while anoyo refers to "the world over there." Konoyo, released last September, was lauded as a nuanced union between an ancient art form and contemporary electronics. "This was a bit crystallized," Hecker told The Japan Times. He hinted that the process of working through the material of those sessions was not yet finished, and that he wanted to do "another release that was a lot more naturalist and a lot more open."
Anoyo is the result of this second look. It's short, running just over 30 minutes with six tracks, beginning with the nine-minute opener, "That World." An instrument is plucked, then the notes fed back and reversed, as if the air is being sucked away, each note flying backward through space. Soft flutes slip in almost imperceptibly, sounding like an otherworldly orchestra as they join in subtle crescendo. The sounds blend seamlessly into the following track, "Is but a simulated blur," where a slow refrain loops while a powerful drum drives the song forward.
It's difficult to discern between the analogue and synthesized, a confusion that Hecker has relished with past projects. For his 2013 foray into ensemble collaboration, Virgins, he directed an Icelandic vocal ensemble in ways that made the human voice aberrant, then steeped it in electronic murk. The uncanniness of Anoyo could be due to the unfamiliar sounds of gagaku.
The uchimono drum, the hichiriki and ryūteki flutes, and the 17-piped mouth organ called the shō are not often heard outside Japan, the music having only been opened up to the public in the past century. But while Konoyo used these singular sounds like a chisel, Anoyo paints with wide brushstrokes. In a space between percussive surges of the track "Not alone," a voice is heard saying something in Japanese, perhaps a comment from in between takes. To keep it sounds like an intentional mistake, oxymoronic as it is, and a step away from obsessively obscuring the authorship of sound, just letting it be what it is.
Serenity is the mood of "Step Away From Konoyo," a reference both to the last album and "the world over here." Synths and woodwinds at times resemble whale song, at others approach a pure tone. Where Konoyo pushed moments like this further into noise, "Step Away From Konoyo" seems at peace with its own tranquility. This could be said for the entire album. It doesn't immediately excite or stimulate or try to drown you in a tidal wave of megaphonics. Going back to make a new album from sessions that had already been used could have ended up sounding overworked. Instead, Anoyo is the counterbalance to what has been done. These albums shouldn't be compared, but taken in together.
01. That World
02. Is But A Simulated Blur
03. Step Away From Konoyo
04. Into The Void
05. Not Alone
06. You Never Were