Tim Hecker

Tim Hecker


The last time I saw Tim Hecker was just after he’d released the incredible Ravedeath, 1972, when he played in the beautiful surroundings of St. Phillips Church in Salford as part of the Future Everything festival. What set this apart from any other gig I saw that year was that it was conducted in pitch darkness, Hecker was no where to be seen, and all you could do was close your eyes in a room full of strangers and let his ambient drone noise penetrate your very being. It was an extraordinary show, one which you don’t easily forget, so my excitement levels for seeing Hecker again tonight are pretty, pretty high (despite it being a Monday night; seriously, I vote for a Monday night gig ban, it’s just not right, who’s with me?!).

This show takes place in the far less salubrious surroundings of Academy 3, the top level floor of the student union building. My misgivings about it as a suitable venue for the majestic music about to unfold are quickly dismissed as it turns out for tonight’s performance it’s just about as perfect a venue as you can get. The Academy 3 is basically a square box room painted jet black with black drapes hugging the walls. Visibility is low, so much so that no one really notices when Hecker appears on stage, already lining up the first drones of the set as people still chat around me, and with no light show to speak of (there are lights set up, but they are sparingly used throughout, so little in fact that they’re not really worth mentioning, soz) it’s difficult to notice what to focus on.

That soon changes though as Hecker ratchets up the textures of sound that make up his particular brand of noise. The bass rumbles through the entire building, up through my legs and right into my chest as layer upon layer of electronic wizardry is added to his wall of sound. Three songs in (it’s hard to discern which tracks he plays, although there are definitely some remixed ones present from his outstanding new album Love Streams) there are drum stabs so powerful that they genuinely feel like they are knocking me back slightly, puncturing the pretty twinkling synths he’s built up amongst the bass and puncturing my chest. It’s almost oppressive, the sheer weight of sounds he’s building up, and it quickly becomes apparent that the dark box we’re in with it’s incredible sound is very much part of the performance, suffocating us with its brutal starkness.

Voice samples are distorted to make new instruments, synths are manipulated to sound like passing helicopters, bass is added upon bass until your very core feels shaken; this is music that envelopes you; this is music that you feel as well as hear. I close my eyes and let it all wash over me, focusing on nothing but the sound waves flowing around me, and despite the ferocity of it I find it incredibly beautiful. It’s all over in 50 minutes, but it seems like about half of that, it’s a mesmerising experience. At first I was bemoaning the lack of lights, the lack of something to focus on, until I realised, much like in that church a few years ago, the only thing to focus on at a Tim Hecker gig is the music. As he finishes, pink and blue lights bathe the back of the stage, mimicking the cover of Love Streams, and momentarily Hecker is illuminated in colourful shadow. With a slight acknowledgment of the adoring, cheering crowd, he’s gone, back into the darkness where he belongs. And we are released from the black box back into the real world which somehow seems lighter and a little bit more filled with wonder.

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