After the maelstrom of doom that was `Ravedeath, 1972′ by Tim Hecker, his new album `Virgins' seeks to redresses the balance. The unstable, decaying sound and visceral textures are still present, but Hecker has placed more prominence on using acoustic instruments such as woodwind and piano, even synths get more of a say.
Heckers music often sounds external, elemental and physical. `Virgins' sounds internalised, Hecker uses space and silence to add a depth and warmth to the emotional dis/connection. This musical change is evident in opening tracks `Prism' and `Virginal I'. The latter track shows quite a shift, where a bass clarinet is simply allowed to live and breath. `Radiance' is an apt title for a shimmering track full of subtlety and beauty. `Live Room' begins with a jilted piano line, before Hecker finally lets loose with some primal cuts of noise and distortion. But the piano doesnt tire, sparring with the more ominious blasts of noise which sounds like its shredding everything in its path. The energy of the track changes to more soberging tones, which continues into `Live Room Out', ending a stunning sequence.
The piano-led `Virginal II' has Steve Reich's influence all over it, `Black Refraction' is even better with some wonderful layering of piano's. Tweaking the piano's just slightly off-kilter, nudging it enough to pique Hecker's interest and avoiding the temptation to literally pull it apart. The rest of the album continues in this `balanced' manner, Hecker's signature sounds are all present but he's allowed the music to breath. Its all encapsulated in the compelling final track `Stab Variation', a sweeping, disorientating track which sounds like the arrival of a storm but quietly dissappears as soon as any momentum threatens.
Perhaps Hecker realised with `Ravedeath, 1972′ that he took that monstrous path as far as he could. This was music so dense and unforgiving, it simply revelled in its own rotting demise. But Hecker has lived to tell the tale with the equally restless but much more inviting companion in `Virgins'. Although it feels like a release in parts, its more of sense of consolidation. `Ravedeath, 1972′ confirmed Tim Heckers place in the big league of electro-acoustic musicians with an ear for the ambient/experimental/noise, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Christian Fennesz. `Virgins' may not be as thrilling as its predecessor but it certainly cements Hecker's position at the top.