Tim Hecker: An Imaginary Country

An Imaginary Country signifies a noticeable move away from the style Tim Hecker refined in past releases such as Harmony in Ultraviolet and Mirages. The corroded electronic sound palette of those works has evolved into something closer in spirit to the psychedelic kosmische musik heard on recent kranky releases by Cloudland Canyon and White Rainbow; the instrumentation alone—digitally-manipulated mellotron, synthesizer, piano, and guitar—suggests as much, even if it's often transformed into massive slabs that render the individual sounds unidentifiable. Even though conventional krautrock beats are absent, there's definitely a sense of urgent propulsion emanating from the center of pulsating tracks such as “Where Shadows Makes Shadows” (and quite literally so in “Sea Of Pulses”).

One thing that hasn't changed about Hecker's work is its forcefulness: the material on An Imaginary Country is anything but subdued. Despite the inclusion of a restrained setting or two (e.g., the interludes “Utropics” and “Her Black Horizon”), the forty-eight-minute travelogue is largely a phantasmagoric sound spectacle that operates agitatedly at high intensity and volume, and listening to the album's fireworks displays at full volume can be a brain-addling experience. In the penultimate “Where Shadows Makes Shadows,” for example, strings ripple so feverishly they threaten to spin out of control, while the framing “100 Years Ago” and “200 Years Ago” feature dazzling showers of criss-crossing strings that swell into deafening howls. Elsewhere, epic choirs of electric guitars and staggered layers of bleeding six-strings dominate “The Inner Shore” and “Pond Life” respectively, and “Borderlands” and “Currents of Electrostasy” feature gentler piano-generated sweeps and blurry streams of piano stutter. Incidentally, the Debussy quote (“The imaginary country… one that cannot be found on a map”) that inspired Hecker's title choice carries with it a utopian notion of a longing for music of radically bold character. Stating that Hecker's music satisfies that criterion is hardly an exaggeration.

March 2009