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Hecker - Chimerization

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Artist: Hecker

Album: Chimerization

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Jan. 30, 2013

Iíve never been an avid lyrics guy. Iím 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 itís saying. Itís no huge surprise, then, that Iíve not yet cracked the riddle of Florian Heckerís 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. Iím not sure how much Iím 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 ďThe Snake, the Goat and the Ladder (A board game for playing chimera),Ēa text by Iranian writer Reza Negarestani composed especially for the project. Hecker recorded readers in three languages Ė Farsi, German and English Ė 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 soundís original form. Since Heckerís approach is similar across the three albums, itís 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, Iím not much further ahead than when I started. If Chimerization is a riddle, then Iím prepared to admit that Iím stumped, but it might be because Iím not all that driven to play the game. When the words are at their most comprehensible, theyíre 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 albumís trio of voices, the sacrifice of understandability is usually offset by sound thatís easier to sink oneís 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 Heckerís modulation sounds as if it could be the product of one of Appleís ubiquitous system voices. As with Heckerís more subdued distortion, itís 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.

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

By Adam Strohm

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