Nobody can take raw noise and turn it into controlled ambient music like this man can. Hecker's last full length 'Harmony in Ultraviolet' was a stunning example of what he does best and his collab with Aidan Baker didn't leave my turntable for weeks. Atlas is another example of why he's such a good musician. Released in 2007, this somewhat slipped under the radar and now seems to have slipped out of print, although shop around, you might get lucky. By the way, he's Canadian.
The music on Atlas, as with Hecker's other work, sounds as though it could fall apart at any minute. It is the sound of decayed strings and weather-beaten distortion, as though unearthed by an archaeologist and played through a dusty Califone. A sound that I love so much. Both sides are extremely lush soundscapes that only offer the listener fleeting glimpses of the source material, mostly in the form of plucked strings. Interestingly enough, Atlas One begins in the middle of a guitar strum, as though maybe Hecker forgot to press the record button before he started playing. It's really sudden and somewhat jarring but I think it works. In the past I probably would have argued that all ambient music needed a fade in and a fade out. I don't know why, I guess I thought that it sounded better or something, and in most cases that's probably true. However, when a piece does begin or end suddenly it's interesting to imagine that it was actually say, a year long, and maybe we were only meant to hear 20 minutes of it, and the rest is just left a mystery.
Side A starts of with a blistering guitar loop swathed in 100 year-old distortion, slowly losing steam over the duration until it falls out of faze, submerging itself under a blanket of delicate tones, undulating static and a shimmering wash of slow-moving scree. So lovely. Side B is a bit more tame, high-pitched guitar plucking? maybe? something I can't quite put my finger on...and an undercurrent of bass-y drones weave amongst one another as a distant harp, plucked by a beautiful angelic goddess, lulls you into a meditative trance. And then at some point the track ends and you've forgotten what year it is. As always, a very solid offering by Tim Hecker.
A heads up on the next Tim Hecker Full Length due out on Kranky in March, 2009. It's called 'An Imaginary Country.' cd and double lp
Listen to an incredible sample here
And here's the album art: