In 2018 Tim Hecker produced one of his most ambitious records to date in Konoyo, using as the foundation of his work gagaku, a traditional form of Japanese music. Enlisting the services of an excellent Tokyo-based ensemble, Hecker would make several trips to Japan to record some fascinating sessions. What was intriguing about Konoyo was Hecker’s concept of using this form of classical music to unearth a negative space, a place that is merely an illusion, a trick of the mind. To achieve this concept Hecker meticulously processed and engineered the space around the ensemble’s performance, resulting in one of the most stunning works he has ever produced.
It is unknown how much material became available through these sessions, but following the release of Konoyo, Hecker still considers that there is further ground to cover. This world has yet to yield all its mysteries and riches, and so now the producer is returning with a companion record in Anoyo. Revisiting the space that gave birth to such a visionary concept builds expectation, but Hecker was never one to shy away from such a challenge. However, Anoyo does not attempt so much to outshine its predecessor, but rather shine a different light to Hecker’s initial concept. Instead of providing a continuation of Konoyo‘s journey, the new record forms a mirror image, highlighted also in the records title, with Konoyo translating to “the world over here”, while Anoyo adds some distance in that equation meaning “the world over there”. The notion of placement, or displacement, emphasized on these titles is key, and it explains the main difference between these two works.
Anoyo unfolds slowly through a hallucinatory rendition, but it keeps a distance from the off-kilter quality of Konoyo. Here, it is the delicate and subtle melodies of the ensemble that become the music’s foundation, beautifully laid out from the opening notes of “That World”. Through minimal instrumentation and low verbosity, Hecker configures a slow, transitional moment, as he creates an equally minimal background theme to accommodate the recordings. It is this same mindset that leads to further moments of pure ambient bliss, with the structures of the music unrolling and developing into a transcendental progression with “Step Away From Konoyo”.
While delicacy is a theme that accommodates much of this record’s notions and exposes the otherworldly attribute of gagaku fully, Hecker also picks moments of added urgency to increase the power of this work. This aspect makes a shining appearance in moments like “Is but a simulated blur”, adding to the intensity of the processional progression. Despite its forceful nature, the percussion also unveils the improvisational quality of gagaku, making an impressive appearance in “Not Alone”. This element of music free from form is also central to Anoyo‘s identity, and it is further explored in moments like “Into the Void”, where the solid and succinct background that Hecker conjures acts as the counterbalance to the fluid ensemble performance.
What becomes apparent through multiple listens of Anoyo is how Hecker has altered how he interacts with the performance of the gagaku ensemble and the resulting recordings. Konoyo found the producer at the center of it all, molding the recordings, processing and transforming their core attributes to reach to unearth his vision. But with Anoyo, Hecker feels more like an outside observer that minimally interacts with this wondrous world he initially created and attempts to further compliment it. Because Anoyo is not just a companion work to Hecker’s monumental record, but rather a fantastic conclusion to a stunning journey that started through the overwhelming presence of Konoyo, inside this world, and now finished through the beautiful, dreamlike sceneries of Anoyo.