On first listen it seems far from inconsequential that Tim Hecker recorded his new album in Reykjavik, Iceland. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting that country you’ll be aware of the landscape’s singularity. It’s a mass of land borne of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and its turbulent origins are tangible; its landscape is alive; it lives and breathes. As does Love Streams. It is a record that bubbles with a similar undercurrent of volcanic activity.
The record opens with a lighter touch than we are used to receiving from Hecker. Obsidian Counterpoint’s light pipes and flickering background noise give way to huge notes that bulge and swiftly disappear, only to be replaced by others. It’s an introduction that spikes curiosity, but it is the following Music Of The Air that digs its claws in and maps the direction of travel.
On Love Streams Hecker has introduced vocals – of sorts. Being the artist he is, it was always unlikely that said vocals would be of the hook-laden pop kind or even have actual lyrics for that matter. Instead, the cacophony of voices on Music Of The Air make the track sound like a mash-up of Kate Bush’s Under Ice and Waking The Witch. It’s a thrilling composition, and its musical comings and goings mess with the mind. By now a truth is clear – this is an album that demands repeat listens.
At the centre of the record lies Violet Monumental I and II. And it is here that Hecker really delves into the vocal experiments. Part I has a number of voices on a loop seemingly trying to escape through use of incomprehensible incantations, their efforts punctuated by what sounds like a steel drum. All the while the track pulsates like a heartbeat. Part II opens up what part two started. It’s less dense with a loosely repeated keyboard line, compelling rhythm and it’s an experimenter at his most crowd-pleasingly melodic.
Love Streams is an album that should be listened to unabridged, for one track leads thematically to another. Hecker has said that the album is “a riff on the ubiquity and nihilism of streaming of all forms of life”, and it would feel odd to listen to these compositions in that fashion. The effect of sporadically listening to random tracks free of their running order in between shots of The Life Of Pablo or the latest Weezer offering would be detrimental to the overall effect, and unceremoniously remove you from the narrative.
This record is a multi-layered, rich world in and of itself. Take Bijie Dream’s processed organ that seems to bend time, or Live Leak Instrumental’s confluence of ancient and futuristic moods that Hecker is so adept at balancin. Or the counterintuitive flicker of Up Red Bull Creek. There is so much to be explored in this collection; its pleasures are both immediate and gradual.
Castrati Stack is the most Ravedeath, 1972 moment on the album, for those missing some of the ‘noise’ of that recording. It opens with digital interference so bracing you could be forgiven for thinking your system is terminally fucked – were it not a Hecker record – but choral voices soon sooth the ear blistering crackle. Then even they become oppressive and overbearing in their yearning layered insistance.
Hecker delivers the final knockout blow of distorted bass notes and chiming voices with Black Phase, and as it fades it underlines that just about all the fun stuff is happening within the realms of electronica at the moment, as this and Anna Meredith’s excellent Varmints both suggest. Electronics can be animated, brought to life and prove (to borrow the Explosions In The Sky album title) the earth is not a cold, dead place. Love Streams is always on the move. It’s alive and constantly evolving: a slippery beast of a record that you can try and get a hold of, but thankfully you probably never will.