Friday, December 8, 2023
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Tim Hecker – No Highs Review

No highs nor frills for a man whose work is releasing at breakneck speed. Between No Highs and the soundtrack for Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool, Tim Hecker keeps himself busy and listeners engaged. Ambient droning is his game, but No Highs takes itself a little further. Not forward, but down the routes and avenues Hecker is fascinated by. Electroacoustic underscores, little scorched marks of potential which he studies to no end here. Eight minutes of Monotony open the stretch of droning post-minimalism and to good effect. One of those perfect, noisy periods which sets the tone nicely, right after walking past some horse dung, just before reaching the one bench in a five-mile radius, clouds settling in and spitting rain. Monotony. Lovely.  

Articulate and moody momentum hit nicely for Hecker. His longevity comes through spots of brevity, but he feels particularly intrigued with how longer forms can shape his craft. Lotus Light and Anxiety power through as unique, eight-minute beasts, enveloped in shorter tracks on either side of them. Each of these moments, these songs, is a refreshing cleanse. Noisy, but good noise. Strong and developed, considered with each step and weaving through an experience, not a collection. Mood-setting highs wrap themselves around the brain and manage to tap into that special moment, loosening the hooks and stresses. Hecker provides a charming, relaxing experience with the tools at his disposal. Key to No Highs is finding the couple of tracks which work for you. Winter Cop is a wonderful, shimmering place to start. 

And suddenly it implodes. Ever so slightly, Hecker provides a reward for those patient enough to stick with his slow burn. Monotony II is the turning point. A sudden rush, saxophones splattered within and repeated, unyielding to a constant drone. But that drone has such sincerity to it, a sleep-deprived state will see itself drift away to sleep on this one. Nothing but positives for that appeal, No Highs is a relief of a listen for someone attempting and failing to sleep. But there it is, something about the tones, force and pitch of Pulse Depression tickles the brain quite nicely, its sleeping giant nature coming through as though a metallic clang were groaning on underneath its distant surface. Soundtrack quality on the follow-up to Pulse Depression, Anxiety, provides another eight-minute stormer for Hecker. 

Now the trouble of performing these live rears its head. Probably not likely, but what a triumph it would be to hear these colossal mood pieces performed in their sudden and wild state. It is hard to envision No Highs as anything else but an intricately placed studio piece, but the impressive work from Hecker here is a treat. It thumps along, breathing and grinding as a beast, especially toward its end where the pace is matched and the message is received. Wonderful stuff, truly taking itself to those drone noise places, the ambient instrumentals a constant force, ever-shifting and sublime. Slight drops at the beginning come from the time needed to adapt to the progressive, lower tones of the electronic form Hecker has for his listeners, and those tones are of real and sincere quality.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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