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coverpic flag Canada - Full Moon 241 - 04/22/16

Tim Hecker
Love Streams
4AD / Playground

Tim Hecker is an electronic musician and ambient sound wiz artist from Canada (residing in LA, California) who has been in the game for almost 20 years. Since his 2001 debut album, Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again (Alien8 Recordings), he has put out a line of records. Two more albums for Alien8 followed, 2003's Radio Amor and Mirages (2004), plus four albums for the cool Kranky label: Harmony in Ultraviolet (2006), An Imaginary Country (2009), Ravedeath, 1972 (2011), and Virgins (2013). His eight album, Love Streams is his first for the 4AD label.

Hecker's music, or sound collages is a fascinating listen. His songs are of the radiant and vibrant kind. The compositions are so filled with energy they almost burst. Sometimes they do, but with purpose. Love Streams is said to take its cues from 'the avant-classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of his previous full-length (Virgins), but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues.' Hecker's meaning of 'streams' are linked to several topics: the erotic, the technological, or the spiritual, while Hecker himself has called his album 'a riff on the ubiquity and nihilism of streaming of all forms of life.' Welcome to a different kind of tension.

Like with his latest albums Hecker has returned to Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland, for recording his new album, collaborating with fellow Canadian pianist and experimental-electronic artist Kara-Lis Coverdale (a.k.a. K-LC) and Icelandic clarinet player and woodwind specialist Grímur Helgason (who's also performed and recorded with Icelandic multi-instrumentalist cousins Ólafur Arnalds and Ólöf Arnalds). Love Steams also holds vocal additions/contributions from the Icelandic Choir Ensemble, with special vocal arrangements scored by composer JÓhann JÓhannsson. Even though most of the album is instrumental, the vocal/voice parts reminded me of some siren song sound elements. With a special icy touch from Iceland, or what? If there's a thing called ice sirens... Anyway, the album opens with some different kind of Pan flute moods with "Obsidian Counterpoint". Moods with a certain punch, for sure. Sounds awaiting to explode but they pause and fade before they do so. The electric tension is heavy, as the song seems almost to be overloading. With "Music of the Air" the 'vocals' kicks in, making a strong, extra effect to the musical layers... slowly building mountains of sound. Modern, yet with glimpses of the old. Hecker is said to have picked some inspiration from 15th century choral scores by Franco-Flemish composer Josquin des Prez (1450?-1521). These ancient 'tones' have been merged and blended, and transferred to a different place or context, to 'an artificial intelligence-era language of digital resonance and bright synths'. Especially with "Violet Monumental I" and "Castrati Stack" the choral and the choir sounds spring out. On other tracks, the heavy load of manipulated synth sounds merged with woodwind are dominant, such as with "Violet Monumental II" and "Live Leak Instrumental". "Voice Crack" holds bits of all and everything, while "Bijie Dream" makes me slightly think of the 'Northern lights' soundscapes of Norwegian artist Biosphere. It is also good to get some calmer moments in-between, such as "Up Red Bull Creek" and partly "Collapse Sonata". At times I imagine a more minimalist and punky Jean Michel Jarre, while at other times Hecker is a full blood contemporary composer playing his 'rack' as a rock star. Love Steams closes with the massive composition "Black Phase" before the album fades to silence. Silence.

Love Streams is for sure the sounds out of a spirited mind. Energetic vibrations from the volcanic shores of Iceland. Play loud. Loud. LOUD.

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You may also want to check out our Tim Hecker article/review: Harmony in Ultraviolet.

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