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‘Uplifting but terrifying, soothing but unnerving, frantic but calm’. Online Editor Joe Samrai reviews the experimental sounds of Tim Hecker, live at The Station, curated by Colston Hall.

Remember that feeling when you’ve just woken up from a strange but rather nice dream? A peculiar feeling that leaves you in a subdued trance. This seems to be the most accurate way to describe the sounds of Canadian sonic explorer Tim Hecker, who unveiled a dazzling live show at The Station, an event curated by Colston Hall.

Boasting a huge back catalogue of albums (including a collaborative LP with Oneohtrix Point Never) it was impossible to predict the material that Tim Hecker would choose to unleash in The Station. Most would have probably assumed that the bulk of it would have been from his most recent full length album Love Streams, an ‘ethereal but churning’ piece of work released on 4AD which incorporated angelic choral harmony with bone crunching distortion. The album was even aided with arrangement from Academy nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Hecker did not play any of these tracks, or as you might traditionally hear them on the album, but instead appeared to rework certain motifs from his songs and put them in an entirely new context whilst premiering some new material. The rising scale of Love Streams’ opener ‘Obsidian Counterpoint’ was morphed into a monstrous soundscape as the scale rose and rose and the room began to shake. Cinematic would be an understatement.

‘Upon the artist’s request’ Tim Hecker played his entire performance in near darkness. The only lights being that of the lamps used to light his equipment onstage. This may have been because he was adamant on remaining anonymous throughout (who knows). What ever the intent, the audience had no choice but to focus intently on the sounds Hecker was creating. The austerity of the lighting was of no issue however. In fact it aided the sounds produced; sounds unlike anything anyone, or certainly I, had ever heard before. After all, this is a musician known for tinkering with Icelandic church organs and making them sound like they had been launched into (and from) another dimension. A technique similar to that of musician, and Hecker affiliate Ben Frost. However where Ben Frost seems to find refuge in dark and unsettling sounds and textures, Tim Hecker always finds a light; a break in the clouds amidst a tempest of black.

Like the comforting transition from the operatic ‘Castrati Stack’ to the soothing ‘Voice Crack’ on Love Streams, in his live performance, Hecker constantly manipulated this tension. It built to frantic, almost chaotic noise at times, yet there was always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Though not for the faint hearted (a few people had to leave the venue), Tim Hecker’s performance was unlike anything else. Uplifting but terrifying, soothing but unnerving, frantic but calm. Just like that dream you woke up from this morning right? Except this one you definitely won’t forget…

Did you catch Tim Hecker at The Station? Let us know in the comment section below.

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