Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again & Radio Amor by Tim HeckerRelease date: July 6, 2018
It’s an interesting time for Tim Hecker to revisit these two early records. It’s been 17 years since the first album came out under his own name – he put out a few techno cuts as Jetone in the early 2000s – and, in that time, his sounds have evolved, shifted, and progressed far beyond those initial recordings. So much so that, on dipping back into them now, the music almost sounds typical, plain, even. Especially when compared to his recent work on Love Streams. Where the latter chews through gulfs of instrumentation and welcomes a maximalist show of collapsing rhythms, Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again and Radio Amor contained quite a simplistic, virtually minimal, palette. On LS we have woodwind, synth leads, and ethereal vocals whilst, on those initial releases, there tended to be a reliance on glitchy drones and sampled voices.
Fortunately Hecker hasn’t just nipped back to turn the volume up though. He and Matt Colton (of Alchemy Mastering) have approached these sessions with fresh ears and an apparent eagerness to find new rhythms and melodies buried within those original dronescapes. They tease out emotive leads from sunken dirges and, in the cases of ‘The Work Of Art In The Age Of Cultural Over Production’ and ‘7000 Miles’, beef up the noise to marrow-loosening levels.
‘Artic Lovers Rock’, for example, descends to much deeper sound terrain than it ever did before. It’s like drilling through the asthenosphere and mantle. If these lovers are going to find their rock then they’d better get a-digging. The trapped vocals are also far more striking, sounding silver and slippery. Similarly with ‘Music For Tundra Parts 1-3’ the voices are, by the third part at least, almost demonic as they emerge like ghosts in the machine. The acoustics are more voluminous too. It’s dense to the point that a weight lies behind not only the vibrating dirge but every sizzle, clack and electronic spark that appears. It is not just a case of pushing the EQs. The sound here is filled out across the whole musical spectrum, leading to an increased sense of warmth which may or may not be useful on a triptych for tundra. I guess it mainly depends if you want warming up or not?
On ‘City In Flames’ it is the screeches that are more pronounced. So too are the digital glitches. Crackling and fading like the past roar of a fire’s embers. There is also a more insistent and sustained boom that pervades throughout this album, an underlying bolster as if buttressing flood defences. And deep within that too is a familiar chasmic ache that seems inherent to powerful ambient music. This is perhaps most noticeable on the track ‘Ghost Writing’. From seemingly minimal undulations of quiet soundscapes, an emotional core is distilled and raised. Hecker has really tightened the screws on this one. The swelling sounds capture that longed for ache. It’s enveloping. It tries to be uplifting but remains caught and anchored by a forlorn undercurrent that tugs on heartstrings in much the same way as Basinski’s decaying masterpiece – The Disintegration Loops.
‘Night Flight To Your Heart’ sees a more apparent layering of gloom. It’s viscous and appears to hunker down to drip but, instead, just hangs there. Clinging on as always. The third part of ‘Boreal Kiss’ teases with a click of drums. A beat drifting in from a Burial-run pirate radio station passed on a motorway. This soon spins out and away.
With Radio Amor, however, the changes are more subtle. It’s brighter and more resonant. The dynamics fine tuned to the point that haunting sprites seem to flutter around the speakers. The track suggestive of George Michael – ‘Careless Whispers’ – is now thick with sputtering menace and ‘(They Call Me) Jimmy’ transforms a muted riff into panicked morse code that seems to spill out as if from a surging avalanche.
‘Azure Azure’, as you might expect, is still a ten minute noise odyssey but it is now both rampant and malevolent. A beast of distorted shards, chaotic rumbling, and dismal destruction. Similarly the aforementioned ‘The Work Of Art In The Age Of Cultural Over Production’ from Haunt Me… is noticeably cranked. The jangling mechanics are pushed to the forefront whilst other instruments of melodic industry weave in and out in a hubristic bubble, trapped beneath a sonic sea. Chunks of mid-range electronics shatter the surface as a low-end drone powers up and forces its presence through the ambience towards a looming crescendo. This splits diving trinkets of treble with skyscraper-sized slabs of unsettling bass that seem to flower and rupture inside of your skull.
This still continues to be an awe-inspiring moment. And one that seems to have garnered a particular heft over the passing of nigh on twenty years. Place it against your ears and tremble.