- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I am, of course, talking about Halloween. The spooky mood reinforced as I walk through the doors at the Belgrave Music Hall on a typically cold October night. The upstairs room cast in red light, creepy atmospheric drones courtesy of DJ Padawan Sound and the venues smoke machine on full power. It sets the tone rather beautifully (or should that be spookily?) for tonight’s main act, Tim Hecker.
The Canadian electronic artist started his musical journey as a techno DJ and producer before turning his hand to ever-more experimental textures, primarily absorbing himself in drone and ambient music.
This year’s rather beautiful and subdued Anoyo album (and 2018’s sonically disorientating Konoyo LP) saw Hecker collaborate with a Japanese gagaku ensemble, a group of Japanese musicians that only use traditional instruments. Tonight we get Hecker on his own, his vision offered up in its rawest form.
Silence falls as the music fades out, the smoke thick enough to be near-impenetrable. A silhouette bathed in red light, Hecker stands behind a table of equipment as a slow ominous rumble starts to fill up the room. Melancholic overtones creep in as the volume increases and my legs vibrate with the sound.
The whole experience is designed to be as immersive as possible. Perhaps akin to lying down in one of those flotation tanks and letting the visions take you where they want. The term ambient could be a little misleading. Yes, the music is comprised of a slow and steadily unfolding drone but it’s loud. Very, very loud in fact. We’re stood at the front, earplugs in and ready to absorb the sound.
It’s difficult to describe; I mean how do you describe a tone? The whole set acting as one huge, deliberately overwhelming, electronic drone. The wave of sound designed to wipe away exterior thoughts and leave you with the music alone. It’s loud and extreme in nature yet never abrasive or ugly.
I spend far too long trying (and failing) to get a decent photo for the review and it takes me out of the moment. When I pull myself together and finally put the phone down, I allow myself to get swept up in the noise and actually enjoy what I came here to see/ experience. Tim Hecker requires your unconditional surrender.
About 10 minutes in the sound becomes more fragmented, dissonant even. People start to sit on the floor while others prop themselves up on the front of the stage. Heads down as the sound fills up every inch of space. The drone acting as a baptism of noise. One continuous sonic prayer.
Photo of Tim Hecker at Mandala Temple, Japan (2017) courtesy of Rarely Unable.