Tim Hecker works in the electronic music realm, though it’s hard to put him into any sort of neat and easy box. His music is the equivalent of abstract art in music form; he lays out audio maps and we’re tasked to check the coordinates and follow them to some conclusion. His work lays in ambient, drone, and cinematic worlds. He’s no stranger to collaboration, as he’s worked with artists as diverse as Arca, Johann Johannsson, Daniel Lopatin, and Ben Frost. His last release was the score for Brandon Cronenberg’s film Infinity Pool.
With his new album No Highs, Tim Hecker keeps moving his sound forward. He makes music that lends itself freely to the imagination. Vast soundscapes that feel alien, yet pull very visceral feelings from the listener; from hazy and hallucinatory to melancholy and elation.
“Monotony” opens the 11-track No Highs on ominous drones and cinematic grandeur, eliciting the scores of Johann Johannsson. The electronics sound like a symphony warming up as it’s engulfed in a black hole. There’s an epic vibe here as the song builds over 8 minutes. It’s a stunning way to open an album. “Glissalia”, by contrast, is just under three minutes in length and has a reserved feel to it. A contemplative moment in a sonic storm as the sun peaks through jet black skies. “Lotus Light” builds tension via ambient textures and modular electronics. Notes come through almost like voices emanating from darkness.
No Highs has a sense of urgency throughout. Hecker’s work sits with contemporaries like Daniel Lopatin(Oneohtrix Point Never) and the late composer Johann Johannsson, in that their strengths always come from their eccentricities. They all have truly unique voices in electronic music. Same with someone like Nate Utesch of Metavari, their styles are so unique to them that they only ever sound like themselves. Tim Hecker does that here, as he always has in the past. From quick shots of brilliance like “Winter Cop” and “In Your Mind”, to “Monotony II”(with composer Colin Stetson) and the frenetic “Anxiety”, Hecker builds cosmic swaths of noise and even touches of Krautrock with arpeggiated synth rhythms and repetition.
No Highs comes across like morse code; clicks and clacks and tenuous, rhythmic pulses from beyond. Sometimes melodious, sometimes abstract, but always with intention and meaning. Tim Hecker is one of our most important musicians working in the realm of electronic music, and No Highs is firm proof of that.