By Roshan Bhatia
The latest release from Canadian experimental composer Tim Hecker, “Konoyo” is a return to form for Hecker, while also discarding many of the themes that made him one of the strongest names in ambient and drone music.
In the past, Tim Hecker has spoken about how he is inspired by art and architecture. He describes his work as the musical realization of the perception of his inspirations, which resulted in compositions that sound cold and calculated – feelings that are very representative of man-made objects. “Konoyo” is a drastic shift from Hecker’s interpretations of art and architecture, and it feels much more organic and natural than his previous releases.
While Konoyo does share many of the same techniques and quirks as Tim Hecker’s other albums, it employs the exact opposite of the ideas featured in several of his most acclaimed works, particularly the ones at the core of albums like “Ravedeath 1972.” Unlike “Ravedeath,” “Konoyo” isn’t distorted, lifeless, or oppressive; instead it’s organic and welcoming. While both make heavy use of negative space, they do so in ways that seem to contradict each other, with “Ravedeath” evoking feelings of anxiety and loneliness and “Konoyo”’s conjuring ones of comfort. One of the most notable aspects of the album is the presence of a Japanese gagaku (orchestral) ensemble. Hecker heavily modified the ensemble through sampling and processing, a technique that he employed on past albums such as 2016’s Love Streams, where he in similar fashion sampled an Icelandic choir ensemble.
Sonically, “Konoyo” seems to share more with Hecker’s 2000’s IDM and techno project “Jetone” than any of the albums released under his own name. “Konoyo”’s high end is filled with glitchy keys and percussion samples with reverb and delay applied liberally, while the low end favors much more sustained samples and pads. While drum patterns are absent from the album, the heavy use of delay serves to create sections of songs which feel a lot more techno-y than any of his previous ambient releases. Additionally, “Konoyo”’s higher end frequencies are less jarring than those his past few releases, which lends itself to the organic feeling consistent throughout the album.
Ultimately, “Konoyo” is both introspective and extremely personal. It is Hecker’s best work since 2011’s incredible “Ravedeath,” and it presents a new and exciting direction for one of the leading figures in ambient and modern classical.