on 25 January 2014
Many a poet has tried to express what their opinion of beauty, most notably the Romantics, and I’m sure they’d have something to say about this album.
I’ve never listened to TIm Hecker before, but if Virgins reminds me of anything, it’s a sadder Aphex Twins’ Selected Ambient works, because this album is really sad. A Piano sounds like it is dying in ‘Black Refraction’ and the strings that open following ‘Incense at Abu Ghraib’ feel so sorrowful. We are taken through Virgins with our eyes closed and our hands bound in pleasure until we reach the brutal stabbings of ‘Stab Variation’, which really isn’t too far from the eerie atmosphere of opener ‘Prism’.
It’s really with ‘Live Room In’ and ‘Live Room Out’ that this album shines, and it’s doesn’t really shine, it just moves into a different room in the haunted house, a room filled with awe. The creaking piano notes and the strange sounds that are being thrown at me, I don’t even know how they were created, and I like that. And the ending to ‘Live Room Out’, it gets me every time.
Overall, Virgins is an album when listened to through speakers becomes an incredibly detailed and layered experience that you could divulge in forever, soaking in it’s comfortable waters, but when listened to through headphones becomes compact and lonely, a brooding sadness for lonely winter nights that will never bring you to tears because it is cruel in its beauty.
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.
on 4 February 2014
Just a quick review of the product - not the music. I thought to add this in immediately as it could help people decide on what they buy, LP or CD. Kranky don't include a digital download with the LP.
I do understand that this isn't an obligation, but as one knows with such high quality music it can be very useful to have a digital copy. However, the vinyl seems excellent quality, which surprised me after reading elsewhere that Kranky didn't produce/press such high quality LPs.
In this case it's perfect - so far!