[live review] tim hecker, family battle snake, cam deas @ the luminaire

December 13, 2010

Concert date: December 1, 2010

Tim Hecker @ The Luminaire, December 1st 2010 (after Edward Hopper)

A rather belated gig review (life in the Unblog intervened) but no matter as this evening of beautiful noise at the Luminaire – sadly one of the last of this lifetime for the venue – is not yet forgotten.

Montrealer Tim Hecker specialises in coaxing shimmering grace from the clutches of otherwise clipped, pounded and flattened white, pink and brown noise. Tonight’s performance – trailing his forthcoming album release, Ravedeath, 1972, out February 2011 – was typically stunning.

Evoking if not borrowing from his most successful (and very highly recommended) record to date, 2006’s Harmony In Ultraviolet, the set – if you let it – transported you from the dark, confined room in north-west London to somewhere quite different; somewhere elemental but personal. Where precisely was up to you.

Bathed in gloom (hence the deliberately painterly photo above), Hecker manipulated the hissing, throbbing sheets of noise as though he were directing the weather, pushing through storm clouds to reveal glimpses of harmonic clarity only to see them overwhelmed again by renewed inclemency. Listen closely, though, and the beauty is still there inside the noise and is all the more affecting for it.

Support Bill Kouligas (a.k.a. Family Battle Snake) is a Berlin-based musician, sound artist and label-owner who has an ear for disembodied, unsettling ambience. His immersive performance this evening seemed to me to play out an alien abduction, starting with cold, piercing, generative bleeps – suggesting communication from a superior intelligence – heralding the gradual arrival of an overwhelming, subsonic noise like a city-sized alien craft. Finally, your mind is subjected to experimentation by a pulsating, static-filled waveform. Deep beneath the distortion, though, you discern something faintly familiar, allowing you to humbly accept your fate.

The evening was opened by Cam Deas, who bravely stepped in at short notice to replace the snowed-in Rameses III. Deas creates folk-drones using his (on this occasion) standard six-string acoustic guitar that are both captivating and liberating at the same time – you were fully in the moment, but your mind was able to free-associate across thought boundaries at will.

Deas’ hand-processed plucks, picks, strums, slides, detunes, slaps and knocks reveal new angles on our folk memory. Like his musical brethren – talents such as James Blackshaw, Richard Youngs and Scott Tuma as well as Rameses III – Deas’ performances write new chapters for ancient stories begun centuries ago. Their instruments vibrate with eternal truths and myths, but resonate here, today.

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