Sunday, October 4, 2009

tim hecker - an imaginary country (2009)

I love Tim Hecker. I love that, throughout the course of his career, he's taken "ambient" as a starting point, and used it to craft very enthralling and emotional musical pieces. In some way, past Hecker releases were not ambient in the most absolute sense, because they were far too engrossing and demanded too much of your attention to be truly "ambient". That's not to say that they were loud or bombastic in any way; they were as quiet, fuzzy and delicate as any other ambient music. But they were engaging, musically and emotionally, and rewarded attentive listening. Over the course of a single song, you might have found yourself at first lulled into a sense of quiet peacefulness, then taken by driving, swelling chords to dramatic heights, before again returning to pacific tranquility. Yet on An Imaginary Country, Tim Hecker has smoothed out some of the emotional peaks he would have previously reached for, or perhaps merely hidden them better, presenting them in a more patient and subtle guise. None of the tracks here are as engaging as "I'm Transmitting Tonight" or "Song of the Highwire Shrimper" from Radio Amor, or "Dungeoneering" from Harmony in Ultraviolet. The album is still very moving, especially when compared to other ambient artists, but when viewed against Hecker's back catalogue, the highs are not quite as high, the lows not so low, and certainly never occurring within the same song. What does this mean? Is this meant to represent Tim Hecker refining his craft, trying to add subtlety and nuance over immediacy and intensity? Or has he settled into a comfortable sound, and ceased to push himself in new directions? The result, either way, is a less gripping, though not necessarily less satisfying experience. Taken as a whole, An Imaginary Country is indeed a very moving and emotive work. It seems, though, more content to adhere to a more traditional concept of ambient, rarely calling for too much attention, and more content to reveal itself patiently throughout the course of the album.

Tim Hecker - Sea of Pulses
Tim Hecker - Borderlands