Review Summary: With An Imaginary Country, Tim Hecker not only perfects his trade, but also manages to reinvent his ambient stylings.
Three months into 2009, you'll be hard pressed to find a more accurately titled album than An Imaginary Country
. Derived from a Charles Debussy quote which the Montreal based Tim Hecker took to refer to as a sort of "utopian" idea, Hecker's seventh record is exactly that – music for a utopian society. As pretentious as that sounds, it's a fitting description of An Imaginary Country
, which takes Hecker's work in a more natural, outdoors-y direction.
Much like Kranky Records labelmates, Pan American and Stars of the Lid, An Imaginary Country
's indulgences lie firmly within the realm of ambient drone. But what separates Tim Hecker's latest release from the likes of White Bird Release
, Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again
, and Harmony in Ultraviolet
is the nature by which Hecker builds his compositions. Rather than relying on a stripped down, minimalist sound, An Imaginary Country
utilizes heavy walls of noise that recall My Bloody Valentine just as much as any of Hecker's contemporaries. These layers, best exemplified in opener "100 Years Ago" and closer "200 Years Ago", play off as a rhythmic backbone to Hecker's writings. Interestingly, though the buzz that filters through An Imaginary Country
is quite loud, Hecker aims for a more passive atmosphere. The mellotrons and synthesizers are never forceful or obtrusive; instead, the almost melodious sounding fuzz provides the album with a stunning backdrop.
Though An Imaginary Country
strongly emphasizes said layers of white noise to the point where they can seem omnipresent, the subtle, electronic textures underneath is where Tim Hecker works his real magic. "Sea of Pulses" demonstrates such approaches exceedingly well; soft keys compliment the heavy drone influences, making for a sparkling sound not usually associated with Hecker's music. The layers of noise periodically recede, as illustrated by the likes of "Currents of Electrostasy" and "Paragon Point", and from here Hecker's sound is at its richest. Ultimately, though An Imaginary Country
is meant to be listened to as a whole, these songs exhibit Hecker at his most personal and laidback. Unlike Mirages
or even parts of Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again
, which emphasized a darker, more demanding sound, An Imaginary Country
focuses on more beautiful, positive components. As such, An Imaginary Country
is Hecker's easiest record to absorb, given its warm and serene dispositions.
All in all, An Imaginary Country
is probably Tim Hecker's most accessible album. In a way, the record bridges together the elements heard on previous albums, only without regurgitating old ideas. An Imaginary Country
encompasses a diverse song set, ranging from the loud shoegaze influenced numbers such as "100 Years Ago" to the sparse (hell, almost silent) "Utropics" to the lush aesthetics of "A Stop at the Chord Cascades". The album's eight and a half minute long centrepiece, "Where Shadows Make Shadows", effectively incorporates all of these characteristics at some point or another, offering up one of the strongest tracks of Hecker's career. In the end, An Imaginary Country
is essentially a droning ambient album that doesn't ever really pointlessly drone or meander on and on. Tim Hecker has not only perfected his trade over seven albums, but more importantly he has consistently been able to reinvent his music. And let's be honest, real
countries couldn't inspire an album as good as this.