Tim Hecker: Konoyo (Kranky)

Venerated Canadian experimental composer returns with excellent ninth album

Released Sep 28th, 2018 via Kranky / By Norman Miller
Tim Hecker: Konoyo (Kranky) It can be hard sometimes to talk about Canadian composer Tim Hecker without sounding like some twat trying to get into Private Eye's Pseuds Corner. Not that the music is difficult or pseudy, just that he really is what has been described as an “experiential composer” whose often brilliant musical creations are just not so amenable to mere words.

But I'll give it a go for Hecker's ninth full-length album, which takes its name from a Japanese word loosely translated as “the world over here”. The Oriental theme arises due to the seven soundscapes here being largely recorded on trips to Japan where Hecker teamed up with the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso to play in a Tokyo temple.

Hecker's inspiration came from conversations with a recently deceased friend about ideas of negative space and a reaction against dense and banal music. The result is a drive towards soundscapes that carry heft but with a sense of restraint.

Describing instrumentation here isn't much use as Hecker famously twists sounds into fantastic new forms where strings become surreal keening things, wind instruments morph into banshees sighs and keyboards turn to jagged splinters of sound. My notes contain Pseud's Corner stuff like “jagged harp with echoey bongo” or “late autumn in a mittel Europe castle”...

Tracks begin in eerie mood and close in poignant reflectiveness, with long middle sections that go sometimes for stormy disharmony but more often the beautiful ambient drift that marks the lovely In Death Valley.

If there are echoes of others, it is early German electronic pioneers like Tangerine Dream and offshoot solo albums like Michael Hoenig's sublime 1970s album Departure From The Northern Wastelands, which haunt the superb Is A Rose Petal Of The Dying Crimson Light and Keyed Out.

A Sodium Codec Haze, meanwhile, is like a walk in an eerie electronic wood whose twittering electro birds and slow tree spirit whistles nod to some of Edgar Froese's solo pieces.

At 15 minutes long, the final track Across To Anoyo could benefit from editing but even here a gorgeous second half of hazy drone beauty outweighs the longeurs of the first half's mix of slowed gamelan sounds with swooping electronics. Often brilliant, always distinctive. 8/10