Tim Hecker – Love Streams
Released April 8th, 2016 on 4AD Records
My first exposure to Tim Hecker was Ravedeath, 1972, a 2011 ambient album that had a deep undercurrent of resigned acceptance flowing through it. Mortality, the daily grind, the frustrating minutiae of relationships: all of this and more has happened before and will happen again is the meaning it all throbbed with. His followup, 2013’s Virgins, made a profound abstraction out of something as mundane as acoustic instruments played in a room full of natural reverb. Here lies the connection to the basic primitive human it seemed to tell us, the heart of what it means to “make music”. Love Streams takes a different tactic: instead of focusing on the ancient process of engaging with a physical acoustic instrument, Hecker spends the album exploring the possibilities inherent in the human voice itself.
This is an ambient album in its truest sense. The synths and other instrumentation that make up the bedrock are blurred and smeared until they become impossible to separate. The vocal work – supplied by the Icelandic Choir Ensemble – sounds as though it’s echoing through the original caves of the species. When Hecker’s pieces lock into a temporary groove it is something out of the deep history, some vital bit of pop bliss from beyond the veil of civilization. It’s inspirations are a bit closer in terms of relative history; these are examples of 15th Century choral music brought forward into the digital era, baroque music deconstructed and built back up into strange new forms. At times – such as on “Music Of The Air” – Hecker’s manipulation makes an eerie approximation of Auto-Tune on choral voices; at others, the sublime “Castrati Stack” especially, he lights the whole thing on fire and lets the synths corrode and burn in the foreground. That’s the balance that gets struck throughout Love Streams: the ancient and the modern, tussling together in such a tight embrace that it becomes difficult to tell the two apart.