Tim Hecker: Konoyo review – Japanese forms abstracted by ambient dystopias

Kranky

Having created his own particular aesthetic over nearly two decades – imagine an ambient dreamscape in the rain-soaked alley between a church and a nightclub – the Canadian composer Tim Hecker continues to hone and broaden it out. On his previous album he semi-abstracted an Icelandic choir; now he looks to Japan, collaborating with Tokyo Gakuso, a group who play traditional courtly gagaku music. Hecker takes their drums, chimes, and close, borderline discordant strings – a heady, spiritual sound – and adds his own sense of disruption, suggesting real or psychological fracture.

On the most adventurous pieces, such as This Life and Keyed Out, the instruments are made to shiver and thrash as if on a hospital gurney, struggling for equilibrium, as Hecker’s trademark plumes of static billow beneath. On the magnificent Across to Anoyo, the album’s only steady pulse is crowded out by a kind of maniacally melodic feedback, itself taken over by industrial chords and bass notes of pure dread.

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