Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Despite its flaws, Tim Hecker's ninth studio album Konoyo is still more than a worthwhile listen

Album Review by Ross Devlin | 28 Sep 2018
  • Tim Hecker – Konoyo
Album title: Konoyo
Artist: Tim Hecker
Label: Kranky
Release date: 28 Sep

The music of Tim Hecker is a thing of prickly beauty. He bends and transfigures acoustic drones, as if in the service of feeling out some sculptural shape in a lightless room. Yet the skeletal elements have the heft of polished granite and the enduring patina of cordovan leather. It's the sound of luxurious ambient music, at once challenging and immersive. The sounds of luxurious instrumentation, destroyed antiques and bastardised technique; and luxurious travel, as Hecker appeared in Iceland, and now in Tokyo to record with a new ensemble for his ninth album Konoyo.

This time around, the music reels like a shredded sail in the wind and the movement of air seems to disrupt everything. The inspiration for this is gagaku, a type of traditional Japanese court music played by wind and string ensembles, and the sounds on the album reflect his immersion in this style. The parallels between the traditional and contemporary gagaku shares similarities with the European atonal style musique concrete and are the groundwork for Hecker’s latest pantomime. It's the sound of inhuman dreams that struggle to be realised. A kind of colossus rising against the will of nature, without the proper necessities for life – without lungs, skin, tendons – it groans like a joint without lubricant. The ability of sound to create ripples of additional tones, textures and ghostly insinuations of either has always been a focus of Hecker’s music, which defies linearity yet swirls with perfectionist minutiae and deliberately violent intervention.

Konoyo recalls the recent work of fashion designer Craig Green. His jackets and coats a mess of cables and linkages, a patchwork of textures. You want to touch because you wonder how it all could fit together. Green conjures monsters as well: outfitting humans with piping and sails that transformed them into human windmills for one of his shows. Green is similarly interested in creative destruction, torching his fabric sculptures at a recent show. The similarities between the two perhaps come from their desire to create monsters to resurrect a Frankenstein out of sound or fabric and to cloak it in heavy, emotionally-charged bliss. Konoyo is futuristic in that it evokes reconciliation with the inevitability of nature and the collapse of societies, of infrastructure, alongside the endurance and triumph of life. It is remarkable and sometimes terrifying, but ultimately not as impactful as the fleet of musical hammers that dominated his last three albums, each of which raised the stakes for Hecker and pushed the frontier of his imagination.

This is all heady and metaphoric, sure, but this is what makes albums like Konoyo so worthwhile, despite their flaws: they bring to mind frightening, inspiring images of places and events both grand and monstrous. With every album, Hecker has succeeded in creating something uncannily beautiful, despite a constant, noisy fuzz as constricting as a cable knit tourniquet. The noise overwhelms his compositions, but it's hair-raisingly pleasant, like a kind of ASMR, because it's the exploitation of natural resonance. The same kind of vibrations that make stringed instruments sing can also make them growl and scream when pushed to the limit; a clarinet buzzes, squawks and hums as well. Every element in his songs fight for control of the centre before inevitably decaying together like racing pennies in orbit around the centre of a funnel.

Listen to: In Mother Earth Phase