When Tim Hecker played Montreal's Casa Del Popolo this past November he created an illusion worthy of the deft magician’s hand. Hecker’s tones reverberated in the air, transforming the small bar into a vast tundra of sound stretching to the limits of perspective.
<p>He’s a master of shaping space to take on the characteristics of natural geographic features and recreates the effect of the live performance on his new, and fourth, album <em>Harmony in Ultraviolet</em>.</p> <p>It’s not a departure but a revelation. One that’s evident when his last album Mirage’s opener ‘Acephale’ and <em>Harmony’s</em> first ‘Rainbow Blood’ are listened to consecutively. Each opening track becomes emblematic of their separate themes. </p> <p>In <em>Mirages</em> many of the song’s melodies pass us like huge steel tankers through a thick fog of static and fade away in the grayness, leaving us floating in the wake of undulating mist.</p> <p>In <em>Harmony</em> the static and white noise of his other releases fold into the background and the melodies he’s been muffling and burying on past albums emerge from the fog. They arrive in an unexpected complexity.</p> <p>Within this album the feeling of passively observing the monolithic sounds is replaced with a sense of rapid and sweeping movement and exploration into their cracks and fissures. It’s a geographic journey through the atmosphere, plains, shores, cities, and jagged mountains of sound.</p> <p>"RainbowBlood" begins the album as if formed from a light breeze and billows on subtle strings into a fresh expanse of sound. </p> <p>The third track "Palimpsest I" begins the first of three series’ of track cycles found on the album. It has an earthy low-end bass line that ties it to the land and feeds into the fourth track "Chimeras" where the bass mutates and takes on an eerie perpetual movement, as if through caverns. "Dungeoneering" continues the underground exploration and in the sixth track "Palimpsest II" the caverns open up onto the edge of a shore lapped with waves of static.</p> <p>The four part "Harmony in Blue" cycle follows closely. Here Hecker experiments with mimicking the fluidness and pressure of water. He’s fairly successful in capturing the mood but the tracks owe a lot to William Basinski’s Watermusic and the Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Daniel Lanois collaboration The Pearl. This eight-minute sequence slows down the movement of the album a little too much and could have been shortened.</p> <p>Hecker’s greatest achievement on <em>Harmony</em> is the pair of "Whitecaps of White Noise" tracks. Here his sounds capture the tone of massive jagged peaks. The listener is whirled around them and brought close in to investigate their surface of ice coated rock. They’re breathtaking and original.</p> <p>The feeling of floating away from the giant peaks closing "Whitecaps II" flows into the reprise of "Rainbow Blood" ending the album. The track’s aerial display evaporates into a mist of atmosphere.</p> <p>Despite some slight sagging in the middle, <em>Harmony in Ultraviolet</em> is a worthy addition for Tim Hecker. It revisits pieces of tracks from his past albums, but in a clearer, more defined, and confident way. It’s a clear map of where he’s been as he charts his way toward new sound experiments. </p>