Tim Hecker – Virgins


[Reviewed by: Iaha Crax]

Upon opening this fragile disc you discover what a cauldron of creativity Tim Hecker has gathered to help him on this album: Ben Frost, a now Icelandic trip voyeur; Kara-Lis Coverdale, a Montreal-based organist of sacral and profane music, Valgeir Sigurðsson, a well-known musician in Iceland (he’s worked with Björk and Sigur Rós), Randall Dun, who has produced Sunn O))) and Wolves in the Throne Room, and so on.

Hecker was born in Vancouver, but he is now alternating between Los Angeles, Montreal and wherever else he can find some unaccustomed sound sources, amniotic refreshments for his insatiable thirst for ambient music. Lately he is feeding his inspiration by processing pipe organ sounds, voluble innuendo man-made utterings for something above, transparently disposed on several pieces of Virgins.

“Virgins”, a rarely found human species nowadays, turned out to be a suitable title for this album as well, an exact denotation of its range among the rampant spread of second-hand electronica.

Tim Hecker has an urge for structural experimentation; a finely crafted Mendeleev emotional tableau that apparently works out as a successful formula, but when the energies on the surface begin to boil, it turns into a venomous concoction which can simultaneously soothe and stir the soul.

Much of contemporary ambient music may be seen as a continuation of the minimal music form of the 60s. Patterns of revolving loops and similar repetitive rhythms are to be heard along Virgins too. Steve Reich, with his delightful “Music For 18 Musicians” has a sibling in the joyfully abstract song “Virginals”. Perhaps one can claim that Tim Hecker enjoys playing on such, sometimes frivolous, redundancy, however shallow it would be to blindly reduce his music to such a limitation. “Radiance” or “Live Room” contain such powerful built-in counter-sounds, tracks of responses to over-imposed questions upon existence and reality, an endeavour to dissolute any intent for change by means of shifting melodious patterns.

Actually, apart from suggesting a musical accompaniment for a symbolist poem, where symptomatic verses are repeated to imprint on the readers mind, the pieces for “Virgins” lie outside the bounds of what only feeds a certain need for indifferent phantasmagoria. The track “Virginal II”, beginning innocently in a minimal vein, gradually starts sounding viral and visceral, enforcing a narcotic transcendence of the common digestion that leads to an incredible natural relief. You are simply no longer the same in the seemingly perpetual instant this song ends!

The construction of “Virgins” is in relation to the author’s needs for forgetfulness and reverie. The songs are mostly duplicates of his perspective of the world and surreal daydreaming, implying social atrocities like on “Incense of Abu Ghraib”, or social anarchies on “Amps, Drugs and Harmonium”. The diversity of each song is like a habit used to cloak the core-based minimalism; it strangely coverts the perfectly structured arrangements with unexpected brushes of sound and turns of the melodic phrase. “Stigmata I” and “Stigmata II”, and the last track, “Stab Variation”, are all strenuous musical happenings, cloaks or sheets laid on an enigmatic statue, waiting to be unfolded in front of an empty theater hall, similar to the obscure, emotive picture of the disc (a creation of David Nakamato).

“Virgins” was recorded between December 2011 and November 2012 in Reykjavík, Seattle and Troy (Montreal), and it is released through Kranky Records. It’s simply an exhilarating experience, “a throw of the dice” which will plunge you even deeper into the hazard of existence.

Tim HeckerVirgins
Kranky, KRANK 183
CD/LP/Digital 2013

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