Tim Hecker – Love Streams

Art.

Such a tiny word, and yet it carries so much weight.

It seems that in this day and age, anyone can slap that label on the fruits of their creative endeavours, and people who know about these things, will nod their heads and stroke their chins in silent approval. All it takes is a little brash confidence on the part of the artist, or as we like to say in Ireland ‘a hard neck’.

Canadian composer Tim Hecker is an artist. Any doubts about that are immediately dispelled when you read the blurb on the 4AD website. His new album Love Streams “takes its cue from the avant-classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of his previous full-length, 2013’s Virgins, but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues.” Hecker admits to thinking about ideas like “liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus and the transcendental voice in the age of auto-tune” during its creation. Heavy stuff.

But here’s the thing. Normally, I would run a mile at the vaguest whiff of pretentiousness, get as far away as possible from the smug, chin stroking, inner circle of people known as ‘the arty set’. It’s just not my thing. But I like the music of Tim Hecker.

I have liked his music since Harmony in Ultraviolet, released back in 2006, an album of churning, metallic soundscapes that left a blank canvas for the listener to conjure up whatever the hell they wanted to. His music has no cue cards, no manipulatively sorrowful strings or hook laden choruses. It is music to immerse yourself in, and go wherever it takes you. Often lumped into the ‘ambient’ category (purely out of convenience), Hecker’s music is not ambient in the traditional sense.

It is not relaxing. It doesn’t work purely as background music – it is attention hungry music, dense and challenging, sometimes a little unsettling. ‘Ravedeath, 1972’ is often cited as his best album; try listening to it through headphones in a darkened room – some of it is bloody terrifying. Dark, slowly shifting slabs of noise.

And so to Love Streams.  Love Streams is different. From its garishly coloured abstract cover art to the fragmented synth sounds and cut up choral voices, it seems more brightly lit than previous records. I could try and describe each track, but that would be pointless. Pointless, because I cannot really articulate how or why it appeals to me; in that sense, this review is of little value. All you need to know is this is predominantly instrumental music, that it will work its strange magic on some and will leave many others cold.

When I listen to Love Streams, I don’t hear art, I just hear music, no more or less artistic than the latest All Saints record. Musical notes, ideas, shapes, organised in a way that stimulates the pleasure cells, mysterious and magnificent in a way that defies easy explanation.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)