Tim Hecker – Virgins

I’d say this is an essential LP, really worth listening in to. It’s enervating, tough, uncompromising and something that is at times, pretty bloody far out whilst being incredibly accessible.

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Phew. Tim Hecker’s work is always interesting, and Virgins is no exception. In fact it’s more than no exception; it’s brilliant, possibly my favourite of his. Virgins, right from the off, has something incredibly concentrated and determined about it. Not to say creepy.

It’s a very orchestral piece (Hecker’s often been good at constructing music to make it sound as if there’s a bigger picture) and here the sweep of the LP is all encompassing. The last three tracks (Stigmata Pts 1and 2 and the marvellous closer, Stab Variation) form a mini symphony of incredible power and presence, a huge sonic fug that is utterly enveloping and almost hermetically sealed. It’s a romantic record too; sweeping and often balancing sounds on emotional knife edge. Black Refraction is a ripple of caressed, treated piano notes, a piece that feels more human, and more emotional than a lot of his work. It’s brilliantly balanced against the following track, Incense at Abu Ghraib; which (although lasting less than two minutes) has a spooky, menacing, ancient feel that lingers in the memory and somehow reminds me of side two of Low. Intense, heartfelt stuff no doubt.

I think (from a cursory glance at the sleeve notes) this LP is constructed from a series of live performances which then get recalibrated in the studio; so there is a lot that feels off the cuff. You can hear background whoops and screams on Virginal Pt 1; and creaks and groans – as well as ridiculous atonal interjections and sharply delivered counterblasts of noise that suggest a band performing in a space - on Live Room; (maybe the title gives it away too). And the way that Radiance forcibly pushes its way out of the embers of Virginal Pt 1 feels very live, very brutal and of the moment. As such, there’s none of the considered and reflective balm you’d find on earlier LPs such as Harmony in Ultraviolet or An Imaginary Country. But that’s great; this is the sort of music that is thought provoking and brave and much needed now and again as a sort of counterblast to anything getting too insipid or accepted in this genre. (Those who remember all the incessantly similar whirs, clicks and wibblings that appeared in electronic music round 1999 – 2002 will hopefully know what I mean).

I’d say this is an essential LP, really worth listening in to. It’s enervating, tough, uncompromising and something that is at times, pretty bloody far out whilst being incredibly accessible.