What the Hecker is this?

Rothko, number 61

Rothko, number 61

Hecker, Love Streams (back cover)

Hecker, Love Streams (back cover)

Listening to Tim Hecker’s music is a little bit like looking at that Rothko painting on the left. At first it seems like nothing, like any child could have painted three colored rectangles, but after you stare at it long enough (the larger the better) you’ll see that it reminds you of something basic but essential, something at the core of experience in general: the horizon, as it appears in all its various forms and colors. It could be the sea, the land, and the sky. It could be the street, the buildings, and the infinite. Whatever it is, it hits at the quintessence of life as we collectively experience it.

Tim Hecker’s abstract electronic music hints at something similar. Like all abstract art, the music on these albums defies simple definition. Most of the songs consist of drawn-out tones that fade in and out in no discernible pattern, quietly or loudly. They are instrumentals, but what instruments they are is frequently unclear. As if a recorded moment in time has been captured, held, and tortured, the tracks bleed into each other, and the albums blur together as well.  

Personally, the best time to listen to any Tim Hecker album is late, alone in a room, playing Witcher 3, when the darkness of the record can shine through. Though often ominous in nature, the sounds are soothing and can lull you into a meditative state. In fact, I would venture to say that any activity can be improved with these albums playing in the background.

As a child I would have scoffed at the idea that Tim Hecker’s albums should even be considered music, but that was childish thinking. Since then, Tim Hecker and others have helped to expand my notion of what music is. But how would I personally rank his albums? I would like to include high on the list Instrumental Touristhis recent (2012) collaboration with Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin, but leaving that one out, my top five would have to be:

1.     Ravedeath, 1972 (2011)

My entry point into Tim Hecker’s music, and you know how much of an effect that can have. I can’t help but use the word static to describe what I love about these albums, and Ravedeath exemplifies this aspect of Hecker’s work. This is static from Poltergeist though, that comes alive and begins to crawl around the corners of the room. The fuzz of the various types of static is like an eardrum massage, in the same way that chanting Om can be a message for the brain, when stretched for a long-enough time.

2.     Haunt Me (2001)

This is more a subdued album than some of the others, driven by the wintery images of the song titles. The music fits the Arctic imagery because it feels like an expansive, like wandering the tundra. I had never heard this one until a couple weeks ago, so I’m probably not one to judge, but I find myself repeatedly wanting to go back to it. The album reminds me of the most enjoyable parts of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2., specifically “Tree.”

3.     Love Streams (2016)

I know that I still need some time to figure this one out. My first impression, though, is that it’s one of his best. The album cover well-suits the music, as both of them incorporate blurry versions of a choir. Here Hecker delves into the world of manipulating the human voice, something that had been unheard of in his work until now, but something which it seems that he was born to do.

4.     Virgins (2013)

Expansive, loud, and haunting, Virgins was recorded live in an Icelandic church and then manipulated to all hell. The second album I heard by Tim Hecker, it is nearly offensive in its unwillingness to conform to any set standard or prior precedent, and that is exactly what’s great about it.

5.  Harmony in Ultraviolet (2006)

Not sure what to say about this one. It sounds similar to Ravedeath and Virgins to me, and I really like both of those. Heavy industrial drones that drift through one ear and out the other and back again and again, until that one stops and some weird buzzing noise starts up that gets louder for a while and then quieter again while something that sounds like a helicopter sweeps through the headphones and a buzzsaw grinds on a locked metal gate is the only way I have of describing any of these albums. That and static.


Though I might not have much to say about the rest of his albums, the remainder of his discography as a solo artist follows. 

Radio Amor (2003)

Mirages (2004)

Top 10 Albums of 2015

Here's a list of my 10 favorite albums from 2015, along with a short explanation of why each one made the list if there is any other reason other than "i just like it."

1) Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Aside from just being a massive fan of Sufjan Stevens and his many musical masterpieces, I happened upon an opportunity to meet thee Lowell Brams from the album title and from Asthmatic Kitty fame. As if already loving the art of Sufjan Stevens wasn't enough to give this an edge on my list, having dinner with Lowell, talking to him about his label and his connection to the music on this album, and learning more about other artists that are on his label made this an easy highlight for the year 2015. Carrie & Lowell is a devastatingly beautiful album that will be a lifetime favorite for me and many others.

2) Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

Most people would probably claim this was the best album of 2015. Rightfully so, but for me it was not. I bought it the moment it was released on iTunes, and bought the vinyl version immediately when I saw it available on amazon, and having heard it probably 10 times all the way through, I could tell it was a masterwork, but if I'm being honest... it just wasn't clicking with me.  It wasn't until well into the fall, several months after the original release that I actually started to think about this album randomly when I was at work or when I was away from other music. I started craving to hear some of the lines in context of the songs in context of the album as a whole. So it's incredible, and it will live on for years and years and years and maybe my kids one day will ask if I listened to this when it came out--if I cared about it when it was relevant--and I will resoundingly say "YES!"... but for me, even with that, it still wasn't the best album of the year for me in 2015. To each, their own.

3) Tame Impala - Currents

Tame Impala released the most easily accessible album in my top 3 this year. I just immediately loved it and continue to as I write. Why anyone would ignore how great of a band Tame Impala has been and will continue to be is far beyond me... but Currents was a home run in their career and shall live in infamy among my record collection.

4) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

I have nothing to say about this Father John Misty album other than it's incredible, and I think Josh Tillman is an incredibly gifted artist and exceptional performer and entertainer. Also, I will be singing "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" for the rest of my life. 

5) Jamie XX - In Colour

The song of the summer of 2015 was, hands down, "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)."  The rest of the album holds up too, Jamie XX continues to impress outside of The XX, which is incredible in and of itself.

6) Young Thug - Barter 6

Despite having just two out of the ten spots in my top 10 filled with "rap" albums, the real story is that it was incredibly difficult to just two. With albums from Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, A$AP Rocky, Earl Sweatshirt, Drake, and Future I think I listened to Rap more this year than any other year out of the last 5. Young Thug is the show stealing performer though and 2015 was a landmark year for Thugger.

7) Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin' down...

I probably listened to this album more than any other this year because it's easy to put on around my 18-month-old boy who happens to love it. It's like the album I put on in every occasion with him. If I need him to go to sleep, I'll play "Wild Imagination" or "All in a Daze Work"... if he's excitable, I put on "Pretty Pimpin.'"  It's versatile, and it's adult/child approved.

8) Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

Beach House released two albums this year that could both easily be in the top 10--first was Depression Cherry which saw a normal promotion cycle, singles, and hype--as well as the album shown above Thank Your Lucky Stars which was largely a surprise release even to the most avid fans. Their catalog continues to grown and expand in ways I always seem to appreciate, as well as their live shows. I chose Thank Your Lucky Stars as one for my top 10 because I legitimately wasn't anticipating it's release and loved as much as any of their other albums--which is to say, this album is incredible.  

9) Destroyer - Poison Season

Full Disclosure--If a Destroyer album gets released in any given calendar year it's probably going to end up in my top 10. Poison Season is no exception. As soon as I heard this album the first time I listened to it almost exclusively for a month and I sang it in my head throughout my days. I can easily recall the melody to just about every song on the album as I sit, and currently can't get the crescendo from "Bangkok" out of my head as I type. Dan Bejar is a prolific artist.

10) Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

Although this album rounds out the number 10 spot on my year-end list, it is no less valuable to me than any of the above. Deerhunter is consistently one of my favorite bands and is usually one of few I mention when people ask me "what music do you listen to" or "what bands do you like?" "Deerhunter," I tell them, "I like Deerhunter."