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Posted on October 24th, 2013 (10:00 am) by Nick Manai

A lot is being made about the fact that Tim Hecker's seventh full-length, Virgins, was mostly recorded live, and for good reason. For one thing, who he recorded it with is worth taking note of. Hecker employed a group of orchestral musicians affiliated with Bedroom Community, a close-knit Icelandic record label/collective. Bedroom Community's members include Ben Frost (who worked on Hecker's brilliant 2011 release Ravedeath, 1972), Paul Corley (who engineered Virgins and Ravedeath), and Valgeir SigurĂ°sson. Corley, incidentally, also co-produced Oneheotrix Point Never's R Plus Seven and Onehetrix Point Never's David Lopatin has collaborated with Hecker in the past. Whew! I guess nothing breeds friendship like producing brooding electronic instrumentals.

Another reason that the recording of Virgins is so interesting is we have long known Hecker as a reclusive digital musician. Or at least he sounds reclusive. Take his most recent release before Virgins, Ravedeath, 1972, for example. This album was born after one session, recorded in an Icelandic church, of live organ, guitar, and piano, which Hecker took and reworked in the studio. It sounds as though one day was all the guy could take before he had to take refuge behind the control panel with his headphones on, tuning out the rest of the world. The sounds Hecker released on that album, and others, share that sense of minimalistic escape. They conjure up full landscapes that remain overwhelmingly austere.

Virgins bristles with more of an open air sensation. At any moment it feels like it could burst, laying more stress on the surrounding energy that is pressing against the walls, then the energy you can forge within those walls. But it is not the pulse of taxis and shouting. The closest thing I have heard to the sort of title couplet "Virginal I" and "Virginal II" is the opening track from Swan's excellent 2012 release The Seer, "Luancy." Both songs pulse with mysticism as a primal communicator. It seems like something recorded within the depths of a deranged, yet enchanted, forest instead of a studio. It seems to challenge the idea of a studio, or even mixing, with something much more prehistoric.

Many Tim Hecker records have seemed to pull their strength from the examination of music through the lens of technology. Virgins does not so much depart from this reading of Hecker's music as it puts an interesting new spin on it. Virgins feels like an attempt to examine the ancient pacing and beats of music through technology. There are times, like on "Amps, Drums, Harmonium," when a flute floats softly over the sound space until it is refracted, repeated, and balanced against the grinding buzz of dull synths, only to be set free again, floating once more. Already this year we have heard some of the best work in the electronic instrumental field; The Fields, Oneohtrix Point Never and Darkside. These albums had darkness and eclecticism that bristled with the pulse of modernity. Virgins might be as pure and innocent a visions of "virgins" as we can expect from Hecker and the rest of these conceptually electronic artists.

Track List:
1. Prism
2. Virginal I
3. Radiance
4. Live Room
5. Live Room Out
6. Virginal II
7. Black Refraction
8. Incense at Abu Ghraib
9. Amps, Drugs, Harmonium
10. Stigmata I
11. Stigmata II
12. Stab Variation

Tim Hecker: Virgins
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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80 / 100
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