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REVIEW: Tim Hecker plus Sevendeaths at Summerhall in Edinburgh

Tim Hecker in Japan in 2017
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Tim Hecker, Sevendeaths
(Dissection Room, Summerhall, Edinburgh. 2 April 2019. Review by Fiona Mactaggart.)

Outside the former veterinary school, a sudden hailstorm raged, auguring the arrival in Edinburgh on his sole UK appearance of Canadian electronics wizard, experimental composer Tim Hecker.

It was to be a double treat for the almost full capacity crowd in the darkened Dissection Room, as esteemed Edinburgh-based electronics composer Steven Shade aka Sevendeaths opened for Hecker. Indoors the storm continued. Throughout an hour discernibly five pieces were played, Sevendeaths moving from music concrete-style white noise, through death metal loudness to lovely snippets of melody, all the while layering the sounds and rhythmic interplay sufficiently to engage a rapt audience. A notable, lighter piece played early on, with its rapid rippling over slow breathing effects even brought to mind the likes of musical polymath Lukas Ligeti’s seminal African Machinery.

This was a beautifully curated set of diverse pieces, with an overall effect that was surprisingly cheering. The final, short piece, was chirpy even (given his moniker, not something necessarily predictable). Sevendeaths’ last release Remote Sympathy came out in 2017, and on the basis of this evening’s play, it is to be hoped that he will be in the recording studio again soon.

Headliner Hecker likewise presented a concise and engaging continuous one-hour set. Unapologetically out-there, his music on the night might be characterised as doomy metal-ambient-music concrete, and included plenty of intelligent playfulness not to mention drama.

Opening loudly, with multiple sound frequencies including loads of sub-bass, this old jazzer initially found herself directly in front of the subwoofer, not an uninteresting experience. The generally slowly fluctuating volume and the frequent rhythmic changes created multiple rich textures. What with the music concrete sounds (blades on a whetstone, and so forth), this was music for The Apocalypse. The overall mesmerising effect, together with the boundary-breeching effect of Hecker’s set being played in almost complete darkness, made time and place dissolve.

Hecker’s work is complex and searching: his most recent and possibly most interesting projects include a collaboration with an Icelandic choir, and most recently, with the ancient instruments of Tokyo Gakuso, the latter to be heard in his 2018 release, Konoyo.

Ending with a brief cacophonous burst, followed by a peaceful coda, this rich gig drew to a close. As we trooped back out into the storm aftermath, synapses tingling, we wondered in what direction this complex and questing music might go next. Perhaps Hecker’s next collaboration could be with a similarly thoughtful and searching jazz group? Such sounds would surely be at least as intriguing as tonight’s.

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