• PICA/Tracy Van Oosten

I'd follow general blogging procedure and start this post with a picture from last night's packed-past-capacity Tim Hecker set at PSU's Lincoln Hall, but all you'd see is a black box hovering above this sentence.

When the lights went down for the hour-long, no-stops musical experience, they didn't come back on until the performance concluded. In that expanse of darkness, Montreal-based electronic musician Hecker pushed the limits of sound, making something that felt less like composed music and more like an exploration of the physical properties of sonic experience. His sub-rumble bass oscillations penetrated my body, rattling my eyes, passing faint frissons on my pant leg, implanting the sensation of a new and more interesting heart beat within my chest— all of this happening by virtue of sound. Beautiful sound and uncomfortable sound. Melodic sound and sound purely of texture. Sound that worked like music and sound that worked like a massage chair. Hecker's compositions are as much for the body as they are for the ears, an important point which had escaped me until experiencing his craft in a live setting.

Hecker is one of those rare sound artists to break into mainstream pastures. His albums have landed on year-end Pitchfork lists and the like, and his audience ranges the big-box summer music festival crowd to the more academic set you'd usually find at a TBA performance. Over the years, I've tried— without success— to get into his stuff. I'm pretty sure that's my fault, that he got drowned out in a time when ambient experiments and noise music seemed to be more about a cultural experience than a musical one— I'm thinking back to the days of Lucky Dragons' androgynous Renn Faire cuddle parties at Holocene, or those all-night, 'feel free to bring a pillow' Dublab shindigs— leading me to get a bit bored with sound artists and the ways they interface with their listeners.

Hecker is a remedy to that noise-culture listlessness: his music isn't about being the cool guy at a party, it's about listening with the entirety of your body; it's about feeling sound. That isn't to say that his compositions are non-musical. To the contrary, Hecker is a master of using narrow-palate noise and texture as a jump-off point for minimalist, synth-and-acoustic-sample melodic arrangements. Melody arises from abstraction; from sounds that pummel the body with suggestions of physical environments. In total darkness, Hecker made my body— and later, brain— feel like I was in a new place; the combination of human-penetrating bass and emotive melodic uncertainties giving the physical sensation of say, being under a bridge or at the edge of the ocean, or both at the same time.

This became even more apparent on my Max ride home, still in a trance from the music. I closed my eyes, noticing how the train's vibrations signified a shift in tracks or direction, much the same way Hecker manipulated my sense of place with the hugeness of his music.

It's a shame that Hecker was only booked for one night of the festival. If he had repeat performances, I'd strongly urge you to get a ticket. Last night was, without a doubt, the most memorable and moving musical performance I've had in my six years covering the festival.

Local bookers: please bring Tim Hecker back as soon as possible. I'll buy a ticket. Promise!