Tim Hecker: Atlas

Tim Hecker: Norberg, Sweden

Atlas presents two ten-minute pieces in a delectable 10-inch format with vinyl the perfect conduit for Tim Hecker's tones to bleed through (500 copies pressed, incidentally). “Atlas One” layers limpid glissandi peals and scorched guitar shadings over clangorous sheets of blurry distortion and digital crackle —the sound of a Dionysian plunge into the center of a cauldron. Phantoms rise from the grooves near the end of side one, foreshadowing the comparatively more peaceful, piano-sourced material on side two. There's an almost mournful character to this windswept, meditative moodscape, and the piece invites the label ambient more than the material Hecker usually issues. The piece seems to entropically move towards a state of rest as it unfolds, with time slowing in tandem, until soft swirls of haze arise to lead the piece to a close. Though it may include a greater share of tranquil moments, Atlas doesn't depart radically from the style Hecker perfected on Harmony in Ultraviolet (kranky) and Mirages (Alien8) but no one's complaining when the results are so arresting.

Hecker also brings his distinctive signature to the twenty-minute live piece laid down at the Norberg Festival in Sweden. What begins as a delicate wave of tinkling bells and windstorms swells in intensity until heaving masses of granular haze threaten to engulf the gentler elements. Listen closely, however, and they're still present, just buried beneath a writhing vortex. Snippets of melody bob to the oceanic surface amidst groaning stabs, after which the whole subtly morphs into a smeary sea of warm organ tones. A cauldron of sound constantly broils with ambient tones softly glimmering at its core until the piece collapses into a series of flourishes and then abruptly vanishes. Hecker's work always satisfies because it deftly balances abrasive flurries of noise with subtly delineated wisps of melodic beauty, and Norberg, Sweden offers a succinct reminder of Hecker's singular talents.

January 2008