Concert Reviews

Review: Tim Hecker at Odd Fellows Hall, Boulder, with Married In Berdichev, 3/30/12


"Normally I don't sit down when I play," said Tim Hecker with some bemusement before starting his set. "But this chair looked inviting. This will be a special, Stephen Hawking-inspired performance. No disrespect." With that, noises, tones and sounds trickled in and increased in volume until it sounded like ghosts of sacred music from another millennium were echoing in a great cathedral, twinkling with the reverberations of piano, amid a wash of white noise and atmospheric melodies. Hecker performed his set largely in the dark with just a few candles leftover burning in masonry jars.

The dark made sure the focus was on the gorgeous flow of sound being created by Hecker, both organic and sublime. By taking the emphasis off himself and his appearance, Hecker let his compositions live and breathe and impact the audience in the most direct way possible. The low end flowed around and then through your body when it didn't burst forth and seem to bounce off of physical objects ever so gently.

The deep space occupied by Hecker's music allowed for not just an incredibly expressive low end layer but also multiple atmospheres that occupied just the right frequency spectrums. The resulting sound was like distant rain, the tones of chimes in wind abstracted almost beyond recognition, piano echoed out in impressionistic, melancholic figures and a variety of other emulated sounds. At points, it gave you the sense of a large propeller overhead.

Hecker's use of sound was like a master painter's use of brush strokes -- some light and impressionistic, others heavy and making use of shades of darkness as in a Rembrandt painting that, if you're not there to see it in person, the physicality of its visual appearance is lost in a two dimensional rendering. That's the way this music was presented because the sounds engulfed you.

This was certainly the case two songs in when Hecker performed the first track from Ravedeath, 1972, "The Piano Drop." There was an air of Ridley Scott's dark, mysterious aesthetic to the music, which was entrancing from start to finish. Hecker's ability to convey a full sensory stimulation with music was what was most striking about the performance. Except the visuals were suggested in your imagination as the fragments of melody stirred a sense of wonder and the white noise mixed with abstracted evocative sounds that transported you to the most peaceful places in your mind. It was good music and it was good music for you.

Opening the show was Married in Berdichev. For anyone who has seen Brittany Gould perform in the last two years or so, some of the material was familiar but she also introduced a new song or two. What separated this performance from others is the even tighter control and ease and diversity of execution that Gould exercised.

Before, one of the appeals of her compositions created almost entirely out of looped and treated vocals was the unpredictability, at points, of where the music could and would go. But she reigned it in without it seem stilted. The flow of sounds seemed mastered even if Gould let things fly a little loose here and there to keep things from going stale to herself.

The initial drone Gould created was like a luminous fog on the ocean as you are cast adrift with no land in sight. But her escalating, emotional charge and forceful moments of singing cut through that fog with the clarity of unexpected sunlight. Her distinct vocals were like an emotional beacon -- a comforting presence in moments of uncertainty and terror. In some moments, a sound to wake you from your complacent slumber. The set was like an entire voyage, an inner-space odyssey in half an hour.

Following Married in Berdichev was Radere, comprised of Carl Ritger. He started off generating a stream of incandescent white noise for several moments before strapping on his guitar. With what looked like a Jazzmaster, he drifted in sounds that were indistinct tones grazing at the edges of a hint of melody.

Bleeding in controlled feedback in languid swells that evolved into gentle arcs of harmony, Ritger created sounds possessed of a diffused vibrancy -- the sonic equivalent of a fuzzed out image. With shifting tonal structures flowing over and around and within one another, Ritger effected a drawn out shimmer that could get under your skin with its powers of hypnotic suggestion.


Personal Bias: Ravedeath, 1972 is one of my favorite albums of the last ten years.

Random Detail: Before the show started, Luke Thinnes of As I Call "Triumph!" Into the Sun and Sleep Dial recognized Hecker and got him to sign a copy of the Ravedeath, 1972 and a couple of CDs which Hecker graciously did.

By the Way: The Communikey Festival is happening April 25 through April 29. For more information, please visit

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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