Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Posted: 26 September 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Kranky – 28th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Total immersion. This is what I get from Tim Hecker, both recorded and live. Responding critically to such a sensation is a major challenge.

My first attempt to review Konoyo redefined ‘failure’, as I sat, vacant and staring for the duration without typing a word. Yes, other things happened around me: emails continued to ping into my inbox, text messages, Facebook notifications, and so on. So much peripheral shit. But while pushing all of this noise to the peripheries, I struggled – nay, found it impossible – to get a firm grasp on the drifting soundscapes of Hecker’s latest album. My second stab proved no different. I can no longer blame the distractions: I’m reminded of ‘seeing’ Hecker’s performance at the Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds a few years ag. Purple smoke filled the room. It was so dense I couldn’t see my friend standing next to me: I felt as if I was in an isolation tank or a sleeping bag. With my surroundings completely removed, I found myself alone with the music, and in an almost trance-like state, swaying on my feet, in my own world. When things like this happen, I immediately assume I must have drunk more than I should or that I’m tired or something. But music at its most potent is like a drug, and Hecker has the capacity to transform the mental state and one’s relationship with one’s surroundings. And this is certainly true of Konoyo.

Inspired by conversations with a recently-deceased friend about ‘negative space’ and the banal density of contemporary music, Konoyo was largely recorded in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo with a view to creating something that has room to breathe, rather more cerebral than physical, drawing back from sonic force to invite a different kind of engagement.

The first composition, ‘This Life’ wails eerily, resonant low notes hanging ponderously beneath escalating layers of discord that bow and shriek, before oriental motifs chime a certain note of freshness and innocence… but the notes are bent, the underlying washes of sound begin to twist, scrapes of extraneous noise swell to shrieks of metallic feedback.

As is Hecker’s signature, Konoyo, is very much about shifting textures and juxtaposed tonalities, but more than anything, the incidentals, the way layers fade in and out, and extraneous knocks and clatters suddenly appear from nowhere, and then disappear just as quickly. There are murky pulsations and hazy echoes that resonate through spatial densities that range from the subaquatic to the zero-gravity. Hecker conjures space outside of space, spaces which transcend both time and space to exist in another realm entirely, suspending time in the process. It’s ambience with edge.

An abrupt halt in the soothe drones just 20 seconds into ‘Keyed Out’ provides the album’s first real indication of just how difficult Hecker can – and will – make this. Jolting discord and jarring dissonance rupture the smooth, vaporous backdrop as thigs become overtly challenging around three minutes into this ten-minute journey through dissonance and sonic difficulty, across which a lacey cloak of accessibility slowly settles. The fifteen-minute finale, ‘Across to Anoyo’ is a slow-evolving epic which mutates from quiet mellowness into a warped, woozy discord, which twists Japanese motifs into funnelling electronic abstractions.

Piano tones which should offer tranquillity and comfort are rendered with an edge of attack and amidst a metallic edge of reverb, and nothing is quite as it seems or should be on Konoyo. It bends the brain and pushes the listener to explore unexpected spatial experiences, challenging connections to concrete orientation. The physical world disappears, and time evaporates. Konoyo delivers a path to transcendence.

AA

Hecker

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