I’ve been following Tim Hecker’s work since 2001 when we moved in not dissimilar circles, and it’s been great to see his oeuvre shape shift and develop over two decades alongside artists such as Christian Fennesz, Christopher Willits, Fransisco Lopez and Richard Chartier. I often get Hecker and Fennesz mixed up, as for me, their soft distorted grains are sharing sonic geography around similar darting soundscapes and occasionally seismic walls of sound. But Hecker is the rougher side of the sandpaper – he is the ‘one louder’ – and has pushed this aspect of his sound design element to the point of near-complete distortion, perhaps influenced by the Japanese noise scene. He is also, for me, in some ways, a descendent of the master of the mixing desk and bespoke patches – Merzbow. But as another reviewer has stated, he is a ‘High Priest of Drone’ in his own right.
Anyway, enough of these obscure references to show you I’m vaguely qualified to review this. Hecker’s current live shows are one of two beasts; either the full gamelan ensemble he’s using from his Konoyo work, that’s what you get for your South Bank Ticket and less for Summerhall – but you do get a huge mixing desk he brought for tonight’s intense soundscape. And if he needs all of those faders we are in for an intense live mix of prepared work. And that’s what we get (although it was hard to see in pitch black), more of an electroacoustic mix but don’t underestimate this – it wasn’t a case of pressing play and posing. No, the posing was done by the notable number of top knots in the audience. I’m not having a go, I found myself stroking my beard as well. The set kicks off with stems from This Life from 2018’s Konoyo with its ascending drones and howls akin to the profoundly disturbing work of Michel Gordon’s soundtrack to Bill Morrison’s Decasia. I’m listening to This Life just now and it’s the only track I can identify in the fifty minutes of a tight prepared set, the brevity of which irritated a lot of people. I felt it was timed very well, and followed a trajectory of connected works, and would have outstayed its welcome by greater length or been weakened by out of context numbers from other records and compositions.
Summerhall’s sound system struggled with the details of the mix in the space when the sounds became extreme or particularly intense – something I found problematic at other gigs in that space. A number of folk had come prepared with earplugs which were generally taken out half way into the set.
It was quite nice to see the people who were yapping through the music start to shut up as a direct result of the hypnosis and focus of the mix as sonic clouds of static, dark chords, thundering sub basses and treated pads enveloped and surrounded. Why these people turn up at gigs at all is beyond me. THIS IS SOMEBODY’S WORK. Overall a very pleasant set, as was the previous set from Edinburgh’s Sevendeaths who supported Hecker on the evening who was tremendous actually and I will be purchasing records from asap.