Tim Hecker - "Norberg, Sweden (Excerpt)" (Norberg, Sweden)
Ambient and drone music share this with minimalist painting: it is easy to make a work that is easily classifiable as such, but a rare feat to do it well. Itís the ĎI could paint thatí paradox. Just as such cynical gallery-goers do not become the next Rothkos, piling some melodic loops and running them through a stock delay may call to mind an Eno or Christian Fennesz drone, but it will never stand up to them. This fact makes the genre overly crowded and artists that cut through the field are all the more impressive for it.
Tim Hecker is one of those few on that list which, for me, has less than a dozen names on it. While working in a style that is by nature as sparing of personality as it is heavy with abstraction and fuzz, he has forged a recognizable sound that is his alone. Just as remarkable perhaps, is that each of his albums has a distinct mood. The catalog is worth running through: the barren and ghostly Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do It Again (2001), his sunburned masterpiece Radio Amor (2003), the florescent city static of Mirages (2004), and his breakout record, 2006ís Harmony in Ultraviolet.
Norberg, Sweden is a recording of a 21-minute single-track live set from the Norberg Festival and itís vintage Hecker. The piece opens with chiming xylophones gradually processed into smears of static and proceeds to tour through Heckerís repertoire: vocal samples barely recognizable as such, white noise squall, and organ tones. Its shifts donít beg for instant appreciation or attention, but they are enough that the listener never bothers with questions of process or artistic expression; context isnít a concern for sounds this sublime. At its short length, itís not one of the manís definitive documents, but it is a faultless sampling of his magnificent body of work.