Review: Tim Hecker @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Tim Hecker played Brisbane Powerhouse on 15 March, 2024.
Tim is a Brisbane-based writer who loves noisy music, gorgeous pop, weird films, and ice cream.

The large theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse was swallowed by darkness.

The dimming of the venue's lights caught the attention of the crowd, many of whom were seated on the theatre's floor (15 March).

A huge applause greeted Canadian musician Tim Hecker's silhouette, including the rings of whooping. It's an unusual welcome for most musicians who work in the field of ambient music, the beat-less, textural background music most would encounter in yoga studios – but Tim Hecker is unlike most musicians.

Across more than 20 years, Tim has been an innovative force in the realm of experimental music. His 2011 album 'Ravedeath, 1972' is held up as a recent highpoint in the genre, while his 2016 album 'Love Streams' found influence in liturgy, Kanye West, and Auto-tune.

After creating scores for the Colin Farrell-starring BBC 2021 miniseries 'The North Water' and 2023 horror film 'Infinity Pool', the experimentalist released his 11th album, 'No Highs', last year. On that album, Hecker pushes back against the glut of 'corporate ambient', criticising it via song titles such as 'Monotony', 'Total Garbage', and 'Living Spa Water'.

His set at Brisbane's second ΩHM Festival Of Other Music was another push against edgeless ambient music – pushing the genre designed for calmness into disorientating and physical territories.

The night opened with a world-exclusive premiere: a live collaboration between Canadian ambient musician Loscil (Scott Morgan) and Brisbane ensemble Topology.

Above the stage, projections of black-and-white trees waved in the wind, eventually joined by superimposed embers. Behind his laptop, Morgan sent rumbles of electronic bass through the floors, with heavily-reverb keys floating above it.

The musicians of Topology drifted in-and-out, adding swooning strings, saxophone, and light trills of piano. All of these elements combined evoked a melancholic mood, one that reflects the depths of emotion at the devastation of bushfire season.

The only lighting visible during Tim Hecker's set were the ones softly backlighting him, reducing the musician to a vague silhouette moving between the gear on his desk. Where most electronic acts add spectacular footage to enhance their live shows, the vacuum of light enhanced the physical sensations stimulated by Hecker's music.

Tim's electronic bass was a powerful force. The volume distorted the deep rumble, morphing it into discordant static. Other sounds joined the fray: a low repeating siren; insect hissing; the deafening roar of a jet engine. Combined, the sound was discomfiting – the exact challenge a certain music fan hopes to meet.

The bass tremored through the floor, sending vibrations up the spines of those still sitting on the floor. The rumbling prompted some to attempt to find space on the crowded floor to lay on their backs.

Due to the lack of room, fans had to curl their legs up, but the physical sensation of the music overcame any discomfit from the positions their bodies held.

Frequencies travelled up and down their spines like a massage chair. Beginning at their lower back, the rumbling quickly shot up to their skulls, The pulse quickened, making the tips of tongues vibrate against teeth.

It's a sensation that's more torrential than a sound bath – one that Tim Hecker made sure Brisbane strongly felt.

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