splendid > reviews > 1/19/2002
Tim Hecker
Tim Hecker
Haunt Me

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "The Work of Art in the Age of Cultural Overproduction"

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This album is very much a picture. Snapshots of a cobalt-blue sky over nondescript buildings, a morning horizon over a dark ocean, a nightfall behind a silhouetted gothic cathedral, and a view of a telephone poll from a moving car grace the album, giving us a hint of what Tim Hecker (aka Jetone, when he's doing techno) is all about -- not that you'd need much help intuiting it yourself, but every little bit helps. Tim Hecker's music strongly conveys the austerity of nature as well as the fleeting glimpses of life effaced from our memory through the passage of time. If that sounds a bit heady, that's because it is. What's more, he does all of this instrumentally (no mean feat). Hecker is happy merely to let the song titles act as signposts to the images that filled his mind when he wrote each composition. I say composition because I don't think the word "song" would be entirely accurate; there is no readily apparent coherence to any of these nineteen tracks. Allow me to explain.

Hecker's music can be pigeonholed (if this counts as pigeonholing) as what you would hear playing if you watched a show called The Lightless Melancholy of the Arctic Winter on the Discovery Channel. It doesn't have the insultingly cloying New Agey feel that has sunk many an intrepid instrumentalist, instead employing a stark, exploratory tone. All of the tracks are built around a heavy, digital electronic vamp, providing a terra firma around which the lighter keyboards can change colors. The drone's effect is similar to that sizzling bacon static you hear when your speaker is breathing its last. Only rarely does Hecker employ a guitar, preferring to eschew clarity; he concentrates more on the aural sex of synthetically natural sounds, such as garbled airport announcements or the snippets of childlike voices you would normally hear in a horror film. Still, the burden of explanation remains on the titles themselves. The opening tracks, "Music for Tundra" and "Arctic Lover's Rock", do, in fact, support the impression given by the titles: glacial moraines sliding down mountainsides and slurring into icy water. The Soviet Post-Constructionist-inspired title "The Work of Art in the Age of Cultural Overproduction" is an apt one for the song's proletarian chorus of metal upon metal, evoked by what sounds like more than a few electric guitars being pick-scraped against an anvil. (Yeah, so it's not exactly Verdi.)

The rest of the album functions in much the same way. With only a hint of subtext, the listener is expected to let his mind relax and casually take in the music. Haunt Me isn't easy listening by any means, but conversely shouldn't be relegated to the Difficult Electronic Album section either. Brief digression: I am reminded of the works of the well-known yet widely misunderstood abstract painters Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, whose brutally simple "zips" and geometrical blocks of color, respectively, rattled many an art lover. To the common eye, their works were nothing more than simple exercises in color and design, but with the open-mindedness that time and a little philosophical legerdemain provide, their works revealed real emotional staying power. The same can be said for Hecker's music. Slow and unassuming, his work isn't viscerally stunning at the outset; it lingers and rolls around for a while until it becomes indelibly primordial, like something that has been around an awfully long time, but until now has only been glanced at. Hecker, unlike other artists, isn't trying to tell us anything; rather, his work allows your mind to actually think. Because Hecker's music serves as a springboard for your own imagination, enjoyment of it can be highly subjective, like recreational drugs. Regardless, each of the compositions segues into another, so as not to inhibit the listener's experience. As this style indicates, the disc should be enjoyed from start to finish. Even with the inherent abrasiveness or obtuseness that earmarks other electronic trance albums, Haunt Me is pretty accessible. The music is, above all, refreshingly silent.



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