Photo by Emily Berl
SATURDAY AUGUST 5 // 11 PM
Few in the field of explorative ambient music have remained as questing and unclassifiable asCanadian composer Tim Hecker. Across his 15–year career he has moved through shades of reflective electronic noise, experiential sound design, and modern composition with a deft and distinguished touch. Even so, the past few years have seen a minor renaissance in his discography –time seems to be fortifying his palette, rather than fossilising it.
Hecker’s newest opus, Love Streams, takes as its cue from the avant–classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of his previous full–length, 2013’s Virgins, but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues. Its power accrues as it unfolds. Inspired by notions of 15th century choral scores transposed to an artificial intelligence–era language of digital resonance and bright synths, the album was assembled gradually, with layers of studio–tracked keyboards, choir and woodwinds being woven into the mix, then molded and disfigured through complex programming. The effect is similar to hearing some ancient strain of sacred music corrupted by encryption. Hecker admits to thinking about ideas like “liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus” and the “transcendental voice in the age of auto–tune” during its creation.
As is true of most of Hecker’s work, Love Streams is a decidedly opaque creation, offering itself as a mutable vessel of meaning. The tangible clues are few. Beyond the titles, there is also the artwork: a gauzy screengrab of a video of an 80–strong Chinese choir collapsing beneath the stage during in an event last summer. There were no casualties, fortunately, but the image of a congregation united in utopian song suddenly plummeting into the depths is richly metaphorical: no matter how real the Dream, we all feel the Fall. A small handful of the 15th century choral works by Josquin des Prez birthed the foundations of LoveStreams. The musical tradition of cyclic, sacred composition developed and thrived for centuries before eroding under the grinding impatience of modernity. Now we stream more than we love. The current reality is that music too frequently resembles a product, or white noise. Tim Hecker belongs to a select camp actively resisting this undertow, this reduction in significance. His albums are personal statements and gestures of devotion. They are attempts to elevate – even with the stage poised to collapse.