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Aidan Baker + Tim Hecker - Fantasma Parastasie

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Artist: Aidan Baker + Tim Hecker

Album: Fantasma Parastasie

Label: Alien8

Review date: Dec. 2, 2008

Though Tim Hecker rarely succumbs to the collaborative bug, it’s rather surprising it has taken this long for the experimental musician to team up with the similar-minded Aidan Baker. If only because the two Alien8 recording artists are stationed mere miles apart in their shared home base of Montreal. Both musicians share a penchant for experimental electronics (Baker as one-half of Nadja and Hecker as Jetone), which has evolved into critically acclaimed productions revolving around noise- and found sound-derived ambient music. On the other hand, it is no surprise then that Fantasma Parastasie, a true co-production between Baker and Hecker, is an excellent culmination of two peaking musical careers and a rather high-watermark in the experimental ambient genre.

Like Baker’s releases under the ARC moniker, Fantasma Parastasie‘s ambience is mostly derived from over-modulating guitar amplification by-product. The feedback of calmly performed chord progressions and subtly melodic strumming is layered in waves of shifting harmonics and echoing pings. There is plenty of crunch with hints of Nadja’s epic doom metal strewn in to keep fans of the Alien8 discography appeased, but each time that outermost crispy layer is peeled back, a rather melodic core is revealed. Exactly who is doing what is not disclosed in the liner notes (presumably Baker on guitar and Hecker on electronic manipulation), but the pair realize a balance between melodicism and noise that can only be consistently achieved after years of recording in this vein.

The album is divided into seven movements, which – perhaps to annoy iTunes party shufflers everywhere – is broken down further into sixty-six separate tracks (the 500-count limited edition white vinyl version is certainly the best bang for your buck). This very well could dissuade turntable-less fans from picking up the digipak edition, but truthfully, Fantasma Parastasie is meant to be engulfed in a beginning-to-end listen anyhow. Like Hecker’s recent catalog, the music is hypnotizing, led more by shifting moods and textures than any sort of lyrical progressions. It ebbs and flows continuously, wave after auditory wave meditatively lapping against your eardrums.

Packaged beneath an amusing recreation of black-and-white Puritan-era portrait, Fantasma Parastasie is a fine example of these two exceptionally bright Montreal talents. Abstract and experimental without being unlistenable, it plays well to both artists’ strengths – Baker’s feedback virtuosity and Hecker’s ambient narratives. Maybe not quite on the hyperbole-inducing level of Hecker’s much-talked about recent releases, but certainly a fine record sure to please fans of both musicians.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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