Review: Tim Hecker at St Giles in the Fields, 6 Feb, 2012


What a way to start a Monday. Canadian ambient artist Tim Hecker specialises in creating distant & ethereal sound scapes through affecting traditional keyboards, notably the piano - in his LP "Dropped Pianos" - and, in his latest LP "Ravedeath 1972" the Church Organ. I'd just got familiar and been enjoying Dropped Pianos when Andy from Echaskech texted me that he had a spare ticket to see Tim perform at St Giles in the Fields  (an historic 18th Century Anglican Chapel and the last standing building of London's Lawless "Seven Dials" district and still an active church)  I jumped at the chance. If anything just to hear a church organ being played, without a man in a dress droning on about that chap on the cross, all the time. There were to be two performances - one at 6:30 and another at 9pm, both were sold out; Andy and I were attended the first performance.

Noting that John Mulvey had already written a review for it on Uncut's webzine, this next paragraph is based on my comment on his review (just to give you context):

On arrival, I was disappointed to see the stage full of speakers as I, in my mind I'd imagined it to be a more "organ-ic" affair with the ambient space playing a major role;  after all, church organs live in symbiosis with the space they occupy, the sound being coloured by the room's acoustics . Just before the start of the set the all lights were extinquished (people even hid their illuminating and omnipresent mobile phones) and Tim, hidden from view from us in the pews on the ground floor began the recital of "Ravedeath 1972" and we sat, in the darkness, in silence, in this freezing cold church on hard, wooden benches. As the sound of the wind moving through the pipes began to move through the speakers I immediately got a very odd headache  which passed as quickly as it arrived;  ethereal noises washed and distorted at increasing volumes to a deafening level and then washed away to endless reverberations and echoes of the sounds played. It's a difficult sound to describe as the notes, the tune and melody is mostly hidden within the effects and what you're listening to isn't really the church's organ, but the effected  echo of the multitude of notes, all blending and cascading into a waterfall of sounds.

So was it any good? Well... yes. Mostly. It It was about the effect: the wall of sound being played out within the space. Sure I missed hearing the actual organ, and seeing Tim Hecker himself (as well as some visual accompaniment - but then I would say that, being a VJ), but as an audible experience in a unique space it still worked. The sound moved from utter beauty to threatening menace with ease and expertise and my mind and emotional state was massaged along with it. At points I wanted to see angels, and at others I thought he would wake the dead. At one point the frequencies changed so dramatically that you could feel the air pressure change in the church. Admittely there were also points of boredom and FREEZING COLD (!) but they were rare and part of the experience, respectively. So I still feel the space played an important role, maybe not in the way I was expecting, but it was still a unique experience (both audibly and situationally). At the end I felt my brain had been expertly and vigorously scrubbed clean; I'm very glad I went; but I still  feel that I was slight robbed of a kick ass organ recital. ;)