Montreal producer Tim Hecker made his initial breakthrough with experimental techno and IDM as Jetone but followed it with ambient music attributed to his real name. This experimental ambient work, released by the Alien8 sublabel Substractif beginning in late 2001 with Haunt Me Haunt Me, Do It Again, won much acclaim. It also familiarized listeners with the producer himself, and not just because it featured his real name rather than a moniker: Hecker's self-titled work was much more personal than his Jetone recordings, its ideological characteristics reflecting his interests and its experimental slant reflecting his ambitions. For his self-titled recordings, Hecker drew inspiration from pop culture and showcased his ideas within dense collages of found sounds and computer-generated noise. Critics loved the experimentation and also the ideological richness, as exemplified by conceptual albums such as 2011's Ravedeath, 1972 and 2016's Love Streams. It also didn't hurt, of course, that Hecker's more techno-oriented work as Jetone attracted a large following of curious listeners who otherwise probably wouldn't seek out such ambient music. The producer also extensively performed live, another means of connecting with his continually growing audience. As a graduate student studying digital acoustics and software, Hecker spent years dabbling with electronic music before finally debuting as Jetone in 2000 with Autumnumonia for Pitchcadet. The release interested Force Inc., which released Hecker's next album as Jetone, Ultramarin, a year later. Following this popular release, he aligned himself with Alien8, an experimental label based in Montreal. He recorded Haunt Me Haunt Me, Do It Again for Alien8's sublabel Substractif, and watched it inspire critical praise upon its release in late 2001. The album proved so successful that Substractif released a follow-up EP, the Van Halen-themed My Love Is Rotten to the Core, less than a year later in hopes of building upon the lingering critical buzz surrounding Haunt Me. Hecker then recorded Radio Amor for Mille Plateaux, which released the album in April 2003. Inspired by a 1996 journey to Central America, where he experienced a memorable boat ride off the coast of Honduras, Radio Amor consolidated the various aspects of Hecker's previous two efforts into his most accessible ambient work to date, and accordingly won him yet more acclaim. In 2004, Mirages came out, followed by his contribution to Staalplaat's Mort aux Vaches series, a 41-minute live radio set that was released in 2005. The next year, Hecker's first album for Kranky, Harmony in Ultraviolet, hit shelves. In 2007, Hecker released the 20-minute CD single Norberg on the Australian label Room40 and 10" EP Atlas on Audraglint Recordings. The 2008 Alien8 release Fantasma Parastasie was a collaboration with Nadja's Aidan Baker, and it was followed by An Imaginary Country, another solo full-length on Kranky. In 2010, Hecker issued the 7" single "Apondalifa" on Room40. The solo album Ravedeath, 1972 was released in 2011. The ambitious work was themed around the destruction of music, and included contributions from Ben Frost. The album was enormously well-received, garnering acclaim from numerous publications and often being referred to as Hecker's best work to date. Later that year, Hecker released Dropped Pianos, a darker-hued companion piece to Ravedeath. In 2012, he collaborated with Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin on Instrumental Tourist, which featured jazz-inspired improvisations from both producers. The album was the first in a series of collaborations to appear on Software, the label Lopatin ran with another frequent collaborator, Joel Ford. October 2013 saw the Kranky release of Virgins, a deliberate excursion into live, improvisatory performance recorded in Montreal, Reykjavik, and Seattle with an ensemble of musicians playing woodwinds, piano, and synths. Hecker contributed the song "Amps, Drugs, Mellotron" to Adult Swim's 2014 summer singles series. In 2015, Room40 released Norberg/Apondalifa, an LP containing both previous single releases. The following year, Hecker made his debut on 4AD with Love Streams, which featured vocals by the Icelandic Choir Ensemble with arrangements scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Hecker's follow-up appeared in 2018, and his ninth record also marked a return to Kranky. Konoyo was inspired by gagaku, a type of Japanese classical music performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto, and featured the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso. Companion album Anoyo, recorded during the same sessions as Konoyo, was released in 2019.
© Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
© Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Ambient - Released September 28, 2018 | kranky
Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Tim Hecker recorded most of Konoyo in Japan, working with members of the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso, who play a variety of traditional wind and percussion instruments. Hecker's previous album, Love Streams, featured vocals by an Icelandic choir, who sang in a nonsensical language and were twisted into bizarre, alien forms. Hecker does similar business with the gagaku ensemble on Konoyo, sometimes rendering the source material nearly unrecognizable, letting it seep through the mix in subtle ways. The album is informed by ideas of negative space, and there's certainly more of a sense of restraint here compared to other Hecker releases, and not as much charred feedback. That said, there's still an enormous amount of detail to these highly immersive sonic constructions. Opening with distressed siren-like tones which slowly swoop down, "This Life" features woozy clusters of notes which bring to mind Arca's melodies, with frayed distortion bubbling up and swerving around, as well as a tangible sense of things being physically pushed and pulled. The acoustic instruments are much clearer on "In Death Valley," which has delicately plucked strings and knocking drums joined by the sideways thud of Hecker's scattered, crystalline synths. Tracks such as "Keyed Out" are punctuated with high-frequency whistling from instruments such as the ryuteki and the shō. These tones can seem disarming at first, but they contribute to the urgency of the music, in addition to feeling like glimpses into a distant past. Konoyo takes several listens to fully appreciate, as do most Hecker releases, but it's another excellent example of the distinct mixture of bleakness and majesty which he excels at creating. © Paul Simpson /TiVo
Electronic - Released November 20, 2012 | Software
The first volume of SSTUDIOS, a series of collaborative releases released on Daniel Lopatin's Software imprint, Instrumental Tourist pairs Lopatin with Tim Hecker, another artist who excels at drone-based electronic music, on a set of largely improvised songs. Most of the album doesn't feel like a meeting of the minds so much as a melding of them. It's difficult, in the best possible way, to tell which artist contributed which elements to any given track; one could make a guess about the glitches and torqued string melody on a piece like "Uptown Psychedelia," but the way Hecker and Lopatin combine their styles into a versatile mix of melody, drone, and distortion on "Ritual for Consumption" and the title track is too seamless to dissect. Along with their commitment to improvisation, on Instrumental Tourist they also explore the possibilities of seemingly hokey/patronizing "ethnic" instrument presets, including the koto, sitar, and lap steel, to transcend their intended uses, but first they send them up: "Racist Drone," with its faux shakuhachi flutes and koto and glistening ambience, could very well be some soothing, Eastern-inspired new age music if the song weren't interrupted by oddly tweaked percussion and synths whenever it seems close to attaining artificial Zen. "Grey Geisha" follows suit, albeit with more of the ominous undercurrent felt throughout the rest of the album; while these tracks are clever, Hecker and Lopatin's more abstract takes on these concepts are among Instrumental Tourist's standouts. The title "Intrusions" hints at the album's questioning of "exoticism" and cultural appropriation, but its mix of glitched electronics and penetrating drones that get pinched into shrill spikes stands on its own. "Scenes from a French Zoo" and the Angelo Badalamenti-esque "Vaccination (For Thomas Mann)" let the drones that guide much of the pair's work settle around listeners like a beautifully gloomy fog; what they lack in immediacy, they more than make up for in lasting impact. On these songs, Lopatin and Hecker take the sounds in their intentionally limited palette to places they may never have been expected to go, and the journey is intriguing and frequently lovely. That Instrumental Tourist's music was recorded in three days makes it all the more impressive, and bodes well for the rest of the SSTUDIOS albums. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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