Music

Tim Hecker: Love Streams

Tim Hecker and his accomplice Ben Frost are cooking up some of the most striking, beautiful, and genre-defying music of our time.


Tim Hecker

Love Streams

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2016-04-08
Amazon
iTunes

As music fans in the contemporary world, we have a front row seat to the multifaceted process of musical genres melting, imploding, and deconstructing themselves right before our very ears. The reasons for this hybridizing free-for-all are varied. Part of the reason is the immense proliferation of inexpensive music making technologies that would have been restricted to high-end studies in years gone by, or simply did not exist 20 years ago. Another reason, and I am sorry if this offends physical text purists, is the widespread use of torrents, file sharing, and streaming in the 21st century that gave experimental music a vast, international audience it never had before. One thing is for sure: up in Iceland, Tim Hecker and his accomplice Ben Frost are cooking up some of the most striking, beautiful, and genre-defying music of our time.

Hecker’s previous LP Virgins was a fascinating, hypnotic piece of work that infused traditional instruments with electronic and experimental techniques seamlessly. Virgins was very pretty and did not attack the listener with many moments of overt harshness or overwhelming chaos. Hecker’s live performances, on the other hand, are overwhelming. With a top-notch sound system working for him, Hecker is able to drown his live audience in sound in a way that is simply devastating. Until now, Hecker’s recorded work had not quite reached the ecstatic, down-the-rabbit-hole intensity of his live sets. With Love Streams, Hecker has finally figured out a way to completely rip his audience’s guts out, even without the benefit of a spleen rattling sound system backing him up.

Love Streams continues to do what Hecker does best: mix familiar, traditional musical elements with totally alien sounds that are probably whispered to him by Icelandic elves in the deepest depths of sleep. One of Hecker’s most powerful tools here is so simple that it is ingenious: the human voice. Hecker brought in the Icelandic Choir Ensemble and the formidable Jóhann Jóhannsson to give Love Streams that crucial human element that is so central to his work. The singing that echoes in and out of tracks like "Music in the Air" and "Castrati Stack" is so gorgeous and haunting that it makes me want to throw up and cry at the same time. Love Streams is the sound of a brilliant, fearless musician realizing his full potential for the first time.

Until now, Ben Frost’s recorded output has somewhat outshone Hecker’s. Love Streams changes that dynamic, proving that Hecker can speak in a voice very much his own and match the very finest moments in Frost’s work. The two of them seem to be creating their own genre up there in Reykjavik, although it is so formless and iconoclastic that it is really more of an anti-genre. Terms like ambient, experimental, noise, or anything else you might want to lay on them, don’t do them justice or prepare the listener for the emotional power of their music.

Love Streams cannot be taken in on one listen, or two, or 60; it is one of those records that just goes on and on, offering the listener new moments of epiphany with every replay. Love Streams shifts from moment of hierophantic loveliness to modes of sadness and menace so flawlessly that apparently contradictory emotions counterbalance and fuse. It makes perfect sense that Love Streams is Hecker’s first record with label 4AD, as it sort of sounds like the Cocteau Twins if they decided to live inside a glacier, communing with Old Norse land spirits and subsisting exclusively on psychedelic mushrooms. Love Streams is at once familiar and totally alien; a work of art that reminds us why we need art in the first place.

9

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.