Tim Hecker: Konoyo
Experimental composer Tim Hecker returns with an album based on conversations with a recently deceased friend and created with members of the Japanese gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso. Simon Tucker reviews.
Grief is a subject well mined in the arts world. If one is a creative then what is one to do when the inevitable event of losing someone you love occurs? You create. You dive in and either use the process of creation as an act of catharsis or you allow the grief to consume you and your work. Grief twists and stabs you in a myriad of ways. There is no right or wrong. Grief is like a bad LSD trip. There can be moments where all is calm and settled and you feel you are through the worst of the intensity before suddenly it rides up all over you again, smashing your exhausted mind once more with you begging it to stop. You can’t control it. It controls you. You just have to hang in there and hope you get to clearer skies and calmer seas, stronger for having gone through the storm. Only last year this subject was dealt with so beautifully by Ore on his album Belatedly and now we get another perspective on this subject via the works of composer Tim Hecker.
Konoyo was recorded via several trips to Japan where collaborated with members of the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso, in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo. Inspired by conversations with a recently deceased friend about negative space and a sense of music’s increasingly banal density, Hecker found himself drawn towards restraint and elegance, while making music both collectively and alone.
It is the last word ‘alone’ that sticks out. If you are the one who has lost someone it doesn’t matter if you are surrounded by thousands of people, it is still you and your internal voice that has to work through these emotions. With Konoyo, Hecker allows us into one of the most personal moments of a humans existence. Manipulating and mutating sounds created by himself and Tokyo Gakuso he has created an album that is achingly beautiful and soaked in a melancholy that dusts the entire project.
Listening to Konoyo is akin to walking through a dark, snow covered forest with all its imagined threats and biting cold. Throughout the album there are moments where gorgeous melody lines appear with help install a sense of hope but underneath lies a bed of distortion and grime telling us the listener that however good things can seem on the outside, there is still a hurting soul underneath.
Keyed Out is a perfect example of this and one of the highlights of the album. It plays like a distorted dream with seemingly random percussion appearing then hiding underneath as waves of synths swirl around, some with innate beauty whilst others swirl with fierce foreboding. As the track progresses things get more and more intense. Grief is here and it is playing its ugly game.
This Life, which opens the album helps place us into the centre of Konoyo’s mindset as it rolls and dips, often squalling like an updated version of Throbbing Gristle’s Beachy Head (fans of TG will find a lot to enjoy here on this album). This Life is unsettling but not overbearing or off-putting.It is in fact a tester for the listener as if you accept it and its ways you will understand where the rest of this journey will lead.
Konoyo is not all oppressive sounds and grinding synths and there are many moments where the beauty of life manages to overpower the strength of grief like on the cosmic hymn In Mother Earth Phase or the shattered glass of In Death Valley which on surface level can seem cacophonous and unwieldy but if you allow your mind to focus on it, you will grab at wonderful phrases and melodic lines that break through the wild structure.
Konoyo is the sound of humanity and the beacon of hope we must cling to when trauma enters our lives. It lays its authors heart and soul bare in front of us. Depending on how you approach it, it can offer solace or fear. It is melancholic and yearning, disturbing and beautiful. It is life and death told through the minds of humans from different sides of the globe. Konoyo is peace and it is universal.