Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin - Instrumental Tourist - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin - Instrumental Tourist

by Daryl Worthington Rating:7 Release Date:2012-11-26

Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) made two of the finest albums of 2011 in Ravedeath 1972 and Replica respectively. Both albums are works of ambitious, experimental electronic music which also triggers strong emotional responses. Both albums received a great deal of media adulation and recognition, and showed that the two artists, along with bands such as Emeralds, are at the forefront of a wave of exciting electronic music coming from the States. Instrumental Tourist is the first release on Lopatin's own Software label, and the fact it is a collaboration with Hecker sets a high standard that makes this a label worth keeping an eye on.

Hecker and Lopatin take fairly different approaches to their compositions. Hecker often starts with acoustic instruments as a base, applying computer software and effects to the signals to alter their sonic identity. Certain frequencies are exaggerated, elements are cut and sequenced, and masses of compression and reverb are applied to dramatically alter their textures. Lopatin, on the other hand, seems to have a fascination with the synthetic. Synthesizers are combined with samples of musical and non-musical sources, his plunderphonic approach seamlessly fusing the two like an update on musique concrete.

One of the most impressive things about this collaboration is how smoothly the two approaches are combined. There are moments where the idiosyncrasies of each artist can be pinpointed; Heckers blasts of Cathedral sized distortions, or Lopatins synthetic choir sounds. But on the whole, it's difficult to pinpoint which artist is responsible for each element in a track. This is most apparent on 'Rascist Drone', one of the most beautiful pieces on the album. It finds both artists combining with an eerie beauty, various textures joining to flesh out the slow-moving melody.

On 'Ritual for Consumption', we hear Lopatin's concrete approach being given greater scope by the textures of Hecker. Blasts of digital noise and samples of plucked strings are blanketed by gradually shifting, almost brassy drones. The two elements, rather than clashing with each other, work perfectly to become crucial components of the piece's grandeur, giving it a depth beyond ambient music.

There is something in the composition of these tracks which seems to hold a debt to the improvisations and abstractions of jazz. This is most explicit on 'GRM Blue I' and 'II'. II is built on wandering keys which sound like they could be from a lounge jazz pianist. These are accompanied by staccato chord stabs which, for some reason, seem like they should be in a 90s computer game. Over this base are blasts of mechanical noise, improvised-sounding synth choir flourishes and even some saxophone.

These elements seem to take the place of instrumental solo's and flourishes which would provide variation and excitement on a Sun Ra or Miles Davis record. Electronic and ambient music can sometimes become slightly linear, due to its reliance on loops and samples. Although it is most explicit on these two tracks, throughout this album are little bursts of abstraction that give the whole thing a much more human, and unpredictable, edge.

Ravedeath 1972 and Replica both represented major highlights of these two artist's careers, with the discovery and perfection of new ground into distinctive and cohesive wholes. This album doesn't quite match that ambition and energy. However, I kind of feel this wasn't really the point. Some of the mellower pieces on this album, such as 'Vaccination No 2' or the title track, have a pastoral contentment to them, which one can imagine represents the pleasure the two artists had working together in creating them.

Rather than being a vertical step into new territory, it comes across as a horizontal exploration; Hecker and Lopatin working together to further explore and develop the ground they have already covered and trying out some new ideas. Taken from this perspective, the album is a very pleasant, interesting and engaging listen.

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