Tim Hecker – Howler – Melbourne 14th of Jan 2015


Tim Hecker

Spilt Silo, dressed in black staring intently at his laptop sounds like he’s performing behind layers of cotton wool. With endlessly chiming electro piano chords, random glitches and ill defined bass sounds he’s competing with a near impenetrable noise floor that drowns out any moments of ambience or nuance that you would assume have to be happening. Playing one extended abstract piece, his set really only picks up when he moves into more aggressive noise based sonic terrain, but you get the sense that for much of his 40 odd minutes he is really up against it.

Howler is bursting at the seams for Hecker, and to be honest it’s hard to reconcile the music he makes with his popularity. Having toured with the likes of Sigur Ros and Godspeed You Black Emperor there’s clearly something in his arrangement of sound that bears a kind of proximity to music, that seems to hint at so much, yet this is possibly one of the busiest experimental gigs this writer has attended in some time.

With the lights predominantly off, Hecker is just a vague blur behind the mixing desk. He begins quietly with rhythmic bass tones, spaced apart, quite low in volume, to the extent that the majority of the audience aren’t even aware that he has begun and continue chattering to their neighbours.

Yet very early on Hecker is able to do something his support wasn’t – rise above and the chatter, and very quickly assert himself above the hissy mix. Perhaps assert is not the right word, it’s more like he physically bodies it out of the way, creating this incredibly visceral full body sonic experience. You can hear the bass in your legs and it travels up your torso, and it’s here mixing with an ill defined cacophony of higher end material that you can actually feel links to the searing noisier moments of his previous tour mates Godspeed You Black Emperor, though Hecker takes it so much further.
Whilst the intensity and the enveloping rush of noise remains for the entire set, Hecker infuses some near musical moments with some quite reassuring bass grooves midway, though quickly they’re eclipsed by what you might call a kind of woozy ill fitting noise, where there only feels like a vague relationship in the way the elements are connected. Playing one long piece, Hecker seems to be using multiple vaguely musical approaches though, adapting them to his more abstract sound art/ experimental approach, seemingly dubbing out noise and operating and transforming feedback systems.

Whilst over time the space begins to thin out to the point that it’s possible to breath again, it’s still quite gruelling, yet you don’t want to move a muscle, escape to the bar or turn away for an instant as there’s something not just compelling but exhilarating about Hecker’s full bodied maximalist experimental music.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.