Tim Hecker - Virgins 2xLP


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Label: Kranky

Our Review:

Record after record, Tim Hecker performs impossible sonic alchemy, transforming harsh noise into lush, layered dreaminess, weaving all manner of textures and fractured drones into something stunning and fantastical - including a whole record using nothing but Van Halen records as source material! That in particular sounds like one of those instances where the process is more interesting than the music itself, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hecker's Van Halen records is utterly and heartbreakingly gorgeous. Even with no knowledge of the music's provenance, you'd have to be dead inside to not be totally blown away.

With every record, we found ourselves more and more in awe of Hecker's ability to create these impossibly pretty dronescapes, to constantly conjure up worlds of sound that evoke truly deep emotion in the listener. That said, Virgins might represent the most dramatic shift to date in Hecker's catalog, utilizing an entirely new sonic palette, which includes recordings of woodwinds, pianos, synthesizers and electronics. The results are dramatically different than previous outings. It still sounds like a Tim Hecker record, sort of. This time around, much of the music has a modern minimalist vibe. The influence of both Terry Riley and Steve Reich loom large, especially in the opening salvo, the brief almost psychedelic sounding loopscape of "Prism." Repetitive and hypnotic, with variable pitch shifts that make the whole thing woozy and slightly off kilter, but still lush and prismatic. On "Virginal I," Hecker brings to the foreground the piano which in turn is layered and looped and accretes into a seriously dizzying jumble. Then the tape speed begins fluctuating, and it gets noisier and noisier, and soon, it's not that far removed from past Hecker efforts: a swirling, dense squall of sound that manages to be both impossibly tangled and intricate, and at the same time totally mesmerizing and dreamlike.

Some tracks here, like "Radiance", definitely harken back to the Hecker sound of old, airy and ethereal, warm and lush, a dreamy bit of manipulated sound, a smeary sonic blur that's softly psychedelic and utterly mesmerizing, but others, like the two part "Live Room" suite, deviate dramatically from what we're used to, as a fractured chamber music with his symphonic sounds wreathed in tape hiss and static, with seemingly no effort to remove the various non musical sounds, voices, conversations. The rest of the record unfolds in an equally unorthodox manner. Slow somber piano pieces are flecked with scrapes and shuffles. The notes slightly detuned, plenty of pitch warble, and subtle sonic tweaks, while elsewhere the previous plinked piano sounds are piled atop one another, all gradually blurred into an abstract smear of prismatic sound. Stunning!