Tim Hecker, “Love Streams”
Tim Hecker navigates some tempestuous soundscapes on his first release for 4AD. Love Streams runs a restless current over eleven dark channels, as a heavy fog of synth curls around ghostly vocal samples. These are new coordinates for the poster boy of ambient noise, as working with the Icelandic Choir Ensemble (performing arrangements by Jóhann Jóhannsson), Hecker steers closer to melody than ever before. But any sense of harmony is swiftly drowned in distortion, scaly drones always lurking like sea creatures below. The listener climbs aboard, a crewmate of past journeys, seeking new sonic adventures. Once again we encounter a beautiful violence of sound, something unknowable and foreboding. This time, though, it is something hauntingly human.
The album is launched with “Obsidian Counterpoint,” a string of flute notes looped over shimmering tempos. It is a bucolic beginning that eventually dissolves into submerged atmospherics. “Music of the Air” follows with angelic voices crying out in a spliced chorus. The humble church organ is deconstructed and then amplified, its fuzzed notes feeding heavily into “Bijie Dream.” At this point we encounter a windstorm of static, and synth notes are jettisoned as some aural reckoning looms on the horizon. Fragments of the choir are reformed for “Violet Monumental I,” now chanting in panicked confusion.
The wreckage is realized on lead single “Castrati Sack” where sound textures oscillate with urgency. It seems that we capsize and flounder through waves of feedback, enchanted by a siren’s song of sustained vocals. “Collapse Sonata” is awash in placid tones, providing time for floating before the unholy hymns are reprised. We relinquish buoyancy during the early minutes of “Black Phase,” the mournful closer. Extended chimes are shattered by thundering chords, and the choir sings a monosyllabic elegy.
On Love Streams, Tim Hecker manages to drag something foreign out of familiar waters. The voice collages add a spiritual element to his stormy drones, and as anyone familiar with his live performances already knows, the artist is quite fond of playing darkened churches. These choir samples, in their altered and sculpted form, lead a procession to some watery grave. The listener is lost in a digital whirlpool, swept up in the torrent of sounds. It is a sweet demise and we welcome it gladly, as voices continue singing from the shoreline.