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New Music: Tim Hecker

By Jason Herring, April 1 2016 —

I listen to a lot of ambient music. I began exploring the genre as a soundtrack to help me focus while doing homework, but was soon captivated by the style. Good ambient music does a lot with little, forging unified and enthralling soundscapes from disparate pieces. And there are few better practitioners of the craft than Montreal’s Tim Hecker. ENT_TimHecker

The composer has been creating ambient drone albums for over a decade, with his best work to date coming in 2013 with the cathartic Virgins. He now returns with Love Streams, a follow-up that marks a stylistic shift. While Virgins felt reverent — music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a cathedral —  his newest work explores a glitchier and more detached sound.

“Obsidian Counterpoint” opens the album with a jumbled array of synthesizers soon joined by a woodwind line, creating a strangely playful atmosphere. This mood soon evaporates, as heavier synths punctuate the track and the backdrop becomes muddled by static-like noise.

This chaotic deconstruction of beautiful music is common throughout the album. Hecker builds a comfortable atmosphere, then suddenly shifts the track’s mood with jarring noises. “Castari Stack” exemplifies this, beginning with a background of choral voices before a sound reminiscent of an old TV set without a signal overtakes the track.

This kind of discordance may be offputting for some, but it works well throughout Love Streams. The imbalance of sounds offers a beautiful contrast, and it’s clear there’s a method to Hecker’s madness.

The album is full of highlights — the most notable is “Violet Monument II,” a track whose combination of synths, strings and percussion creates a gorgeous cacophony. “Bijie Dream” is a short, upbeat excursion similar to the work of contemporary Oneohtrix Point Never. And “Black Phase” is a worthy closer to the album, bringing in the Icelandic Choir Ensemble to vocalize on top of a grim, droning instrumental.

Hecker’s work is ethereal. He’s established himself as both a brilliant composer and one of Canada’s most innovative musicians. While it’s certainly not a bad backdrop for some end of semester studying, Hecker’s form of ambience is enthralling in its own right.

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