Hecq: Scatterheart

Benny Boysen's self-professed love for artists like Speedy J, L'usine, Murcof, Deathprod, and James Plotkin resonates throughout his sophomore Hecq album. He's a wunderkind (only twenty-two when the album was created) who distills his appetite for Bartok, Billy Idol, and everything in between into the satisfying, hour-long sojourn Scatterheart. The title choice embodies Boysen's conviction that every artistic process involves violability, the 'scattering' of heart and mind that emerges when one moves beyond mere programming.

The album is sequenced as twenty-three connecting tracks, with ten of them—interspersed voice samples and ambient interludes, typically—less than two minutes long, giving the album a trippy travelogue feel. While the strategy generally works well, some segues are abrupt, like the sudden shift from the stormy soundscape “Inyarns” to the buzzing curlicues, pinprick beats, and dubby washes of “Holler.”

As one might expect, tracks inhabit contrasting stylistic realms. On the ambient front, the album includes the dirge-like overture “Fdk,” seashore atmospheres in “Madison II,” and haunted rumbles in “Inyarns”; darkest of all is “Midnight Generator,” an aural excursion into the bowels of some underground crypt. Uplift arrives, however, with the airy dub confection “The White Stairs” and the scurrying dancehall of “Doraccle”; even better is “Flood Me” which merges graceful pizzicati (lifted from the second movement of Debussy's string quartet) with the swirling punch of Arabian hip-hop rhythms.

Sometimes, Boysen's influences rise perhaps a little too close to the surface, with the primary candidate L'usine, given the ubiquity of surgical beat sculpting so reminiscent of Jeff McIlwain's handiwork. “Field,” “Suck,” and “Iso” all feature that crisp signature, with the combination of glitchy atmospheres, skittish beats, and muffled bass lines in “Coup de lune” impressing most of all. While the intermittent interludes help downplay the L'usine influence, there's no denying its presence; furthermore, Boysen, like McIlwain, tends to fixate on beats at the expense of the accompanying melodic material. Notwithstanding such caveats, Scatterheart remains an engrossing outing that bodes well for Boysen's future work.

May 2005