Review of Love Streams Album by Tim Hecker

There's always a feeling of mild suspicion at Contact Towers when a press release appears to be trying too hard to intrigue the reader - and the scat which accompanies Love Streams is from one perspective just such a thing. Containing phrases like "An ancient strain of music corrupted by encryption" and "Transposed to an artificial intelligence-era language of digital resonance and bright synths" it's setting a context which casually links abstract ideas to fervently high brow barriers to entry for the listener, a sort of your IQ's not down, you're not coming in attempt at gate keeping. As we said, alarm bells were ringing.

Tim Hecker Love Streams Album

Cynical maybe, but experience has taught us that normally this form of hyperbole is in direct correlation to a lack of credible boundary pushing, but  this is the strange thing: Love Streams is more than capable of making conversation with you in its own right, Tim Hecker's nouveaux-classical chimera being full of risks, departures and effervescent weirdness.

It's a sphere in which he's created landmarks of his own before, particularly on 2011's stark Ravedeath, 1972. The Canadian himself admits he's used this new work to stay connected to being an artist in a world where creativity is owned by everyone: bravely, (Or confusingly) he describes it as "liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus". Quite.

In a number of ways, he might be right. Love Streams in places is full of the aspects of everyman religion which the secular twenty first century denies - wonder, celebration, faith at a human level - those expressed here through the madrigals of Violet Monumental I, where the singer's fractured verse and dissonant counterpoints feel like they're being beamed live from the front-line of the Rapture. It's this transitory sense of existing at the edge of what is understood that Hecker comes back to time and again, feeding in bubbling white noise, ecstatic fervour and  fractal melody as on Castrati Stack, or using closer Black Phase's doom-like stabs of foreboding, a track which eventually meanders to a presumably metaphor-heavy nothingness.

This sensation of being at the edge of a revelatory precipice is one our feeble minds would be unlikely to sustain for very long; wisely Hecker chooses to layer it with sequences of tranquillity. Infused with child-like wonder, both Up Red Bull Creek and Bijie Dream are lavish if brief intermissions, as calm as evolution but pulsing with a naïve warmth.  

Back in a world less elemental, Love Streams itself was recorded in Reykjavik around the same ensemble of collaborators as its predecessor Virgins - including Kara-Lis Coverdale and Grímur Helgason - and was made from the producer's deliberate layering and then de-construction of his compositions, the result almost a kind of digitised fossil. This concoction of the ages makes the steepling Voice Crack sound like medieval glitch, whilst Live Leak Instrumental has the same dichotomy, truly music whose timbre is ageless, a resonance which belongs in more than one century simultaneously.

Naturally something this grandiose and ambitious in concept stands more than a fair chance of ending up ruined by its on pompousness, patronising the few and excluding the many. Either because or in spite of these things Love Streams remains to an extent trapped by its own intellect, almost afraid to admit it's a far more raw and captivating potential experience for the masses than it might have ever dared to believe. Through it Tim Hecker gives us a time machine, one which needs only to be listened to before it's truly understood.

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