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Hecker - Chimerization

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Artist: Hecker

Album: Chimerization

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Jan. 30, 2013

I’ve never been an avid lyrics guy. I’m very able to listen to a song a hundred times without hearing a particular line, and I tend to concentrate more readily on the timbral qualities of a voice than what it’s saying. It’s no huge surprise, then, that I’ve not yet cracked the riddle of Florian Hecker’s new LP, Chimerization. The album plays at the border between understandable language and linguistic noise, its initial impenetrability intended to slowly coalesce, over repeated and concerted listens, into something meaningful. I’m not sure how much I’m meant to understand or when, but I think, so far, I have to admit defeat with Chimerization, and not just because one version is in Farsi.

The albums begin with “The Snake, the Goat and the Ladder (A board game for playing chimera),”a text by Iranian writer Reza Negarestani composed especially for the project. Hecker recorded readers in three languages – Farsi, German and English – with special care taken to sonically isolate their voices as much as possible. Next came the transformation of the source material, with Hecker putting the recordings through a wringer of editing and effects. The recordings are mutated, but left identifiable as human voices, with timbral fluctuations and cadences serving as hints to the sound’s original form. Since Hecker’s approach is similar across the three albums, it’s the natural differences between the spoken languages that cause the most obvious variations from LP to LP, not that there are many words that can clearly be heard. Rarely, a sliver of a sentence comes through un-effected, but the vast majority of each of these three records imparts no meaning, at least not at first.

After a handful of spins of each of the LPs, I’m not much further ahead than when I started. If Chimerization is a riddle, then I’m prepared to admit that I’m stumped, but it might be because I’m not all that driven to play the game. When the words are at their most comprehensible, they’re usually at their least interesting, overlaid with a thin layer of distortion but not much else. As Hecker is more demonstrative with his warping of each album’s trio of voices, the sacrifice of understandability is usually offset by sound that’s easier to sink one’s teeth into.

Radio frequently comes to mind, from the mild static of a tuner between stations to the heavily warped emissions of alien signals from some faraway star. Sometimes Hecker’s modulation sounds as if it could be the product of one of Apple’s ubiquitous system voices. As with Hecker’s more subdued distortion, it’s the sort of surface treatment that allows the listener to make headway in deciphering the original narrative, but does little to serve the sound of the records.

Chimärisation feels like the most natural of the three albums, most likely because the hard edges of the German language are the best match for Hecker’s manipulations. I also find myself more drawn to the Farsi edition than the LP in my native tongue. On شیمرسازی, there’s no subconscious pressure to try to figure things out, and I can simply pay attention to the sound. That might be at odds with Hecker’s conceptual basis for the whole Chimerization project, but it’s the way in which the records speak to me the most.

By Adam Strohm

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