Tim Hecker and Sir Richard Bishop

A couple of records today that I’ve mysteriously failed to write about over the past month or two, both excellent.

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A couple of records today that I’ve mysteriously failed to write about over the past month or two, both excellent.

First up is “An Imaginary Country” by Tim Hecker, a more or less electronic musician from Montreal, whose music on this evidence is distinct kin to that of Christian Fennesz. I always get Tim Hecker and Florian Hecker mixed up, so I’ll have to be rather guarded about what I’ve got of his previous stuff. But “An Imaginary Country” is a gaseous and lovely piece of dense ambience, very much in keeping with that idea of a sentimental avant-garde that I cooked up in the Fennesz blog.

Like “Black Sea”, “An Imaginary Country” quietly encourages a bunch of oceanic metaphors, with titles like “Sea Of Pulses”, “The Inner Shore” and so on. If anything, though, these pieces are often lusher than those of Fennesz, and the process doesn’t seem to play quite such an integral part in Hecker’s final sound design.

Digitally-adjusted guitar doesn’t have such a prominent role, either, apart from an intense hedge of noise on “Paragon Point”: typical of the album, it’s a highly aestheticised and controlled cacophony, and beneath it lies one of those ghostly submerged melodies favoured by Autechre.

Generally, though, Hecker achieves a tremulous, devotional atmosphere, using some reverberant organ tones and, on “Utropics”, what seems to be a choir briefly appearing out of the ether. It’s hard to be certain about specific sounds, of course, but a beautiful record which, in the best traditions of quasi-ambient music, doesn’t just soundtrack an environment but subtly transforms your perceptions of it.

Sir Richard Bishop’s “Freak Of Araby”, meanwhile, finds the awesome old Sun City Girls guitarist focusing his talents somewhat. If “Polytheistic Fragments” acted as a kind of de facto sampler of Bishop’s range – moving gracefully from Django Rheinhardt to John Fahey, for instance – “Freak Of Araby” is a much more specific project.

It’s explicitly inspired by the Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid, who I must admit I’ve never heard, and finds Bishop mixing up his old songs with traditional Arabic material, ending up with a Moroccan chanter freakout called “Blood-Stained Sands” in a Master Musicians Of Joujouka style (which reminds me, there’s a new album from Sun City Girls associates The Master Musicians Of Bukkake kicking around which I need to play).

Anyway, “Freak Of Araby”, in the way that it privileges the eastern influences that often sit deep in the mix on Takoma School/Takoma-derived/American primitive jams, is quite a revelation (as is “Open Strings – Early Virtuoso Recordings From The Middle East, And New Responses”, which features Bishop alongside Ben Chasny, MV & EE, Rick Tomlinson and others, and which I’ll write more about soonish). In the meantime, if anyone has any good tips on what to check out by Omar Khorshid or similar, please let me know.


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