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Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet

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Artist: Tim Hecker

Album: Harmony In Ultraviolet

Label: Kranky

Review date: Oct. 6, 2006

Canadian laptop artist Tim Hecker headlined the first night of The Wire’s Adventures In Modern Music fest, 2006 edition. Not a lot of people stayed around to hear him. It was a school night, and Jandek, the big draw, played first. Hecker’s audience consisted of a few chatty drunks near the back and a few rapt drunks up front. Of the two or three souls I heard comment on his performance, none said anything that would bear print in a family publication such as this one. But they seemed to dig it, hard. For Tim Hecker is the loudest laptop musician going. At any volume, his slow-burning noise sculptures are loud, loud stuff. To hear this stuff is to be moved, either to the back of the room or into the center of Hecker’s world.

He’s gotten a lot of attention for experiments (Van Halen cut-ups, etc.), which, although theoretically gimmicky, always come out of the oven sad, lonesome and loud. The new joint, Harmony In Ultraviolet, may as well be from the opposite conceptual pole – its density, cryptic artwork and cyclic structure suggest a heavy, shenanigan-free affair. Although it’s the most cerebrally deep, most blatantly arty thing he’s constructed, it’s still sad, lonesome and loud.

Breaking down a Hecker record into tracks might make it less intimidating, but, now more than ever, it would be missing the point. (Because, now more than ever, there is one.) Each of these pieces, be it the eerie, infectious “Chimeras” or the spiraling, exhausting “White Caps Of White Noise” suite, takes its blood from a central heartbeat. A galaxy of signals, drones and whirrs crossfade as they will. Sometimes, the thing seems to dissolve into static. But it’s always coming from the same station.

Use this thing for background music and it’s in and out like a summer t-storm, stirring, calming… finished. Crank it to maximum volume, and it’s no more easy to follow, although it’s just as soothingly eerie and a right good scrub for the synapses. Keep it at optimum listening volume, and it’s altogether more frustrating, a tangle of codes and stores that begs to be studied through headphones, to be tagged “primordial,” “post-industrial” or something in between, probably incorporating the name of some painter no one knows about. But, at any volume, it’s the loudest laptop record to come out of Canada, or anywhere, in quite a stretch.

By Emerson Dameron

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