Hecker & Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist (2012)

A new collaborative effort from Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin and Tim Hecker, Instrumental Tourist

I was excited to hear that Hecker had a new album being released, even though it was in conjunction with one of my more unliked artists shall we say, Danial Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never. Both of these artists are pretty much at the top of their careers now though so I was still hopeful for a strong album and…meh.

The issue I have with this release is its surprisingly wild inconsistency. Balancing on the fringe of Hecker’s sphere of influence and taking much more of the electroacoustic/glitch sounds from Lopatin’s work means essentially creating an album with the worst of both worlds; one where Lopatin has priority and Hecker doesn’t have the aural space he needs to work his magic.

Admittedly things start really well with recent single “Uptown Psychedelia”, riding in on a disjointed mass of synth fiddlings and just about discernible guitar fused with a quintessentially Hecker-esque layer of noise. So far, so good as “Scene From A French View” rolls in and then my personal favourite, “Vaccination (For Thomas Mann)”, both of which float along uncomfortably and gracelessly with delicate strings and light drones, softening the senses and lowering the mood to one of melancholy. The nail(s) in the coffin is the tenuous strings that top it all off with their ethereal and sombre tones and especially the early-Eno like vocal coos in “Vaccination” just add an extra, depressing texture.

Unfortunately, things take a sudden turn for the worse with the aptly named “Intrusions” shattering the carefully drawn tensions and beautiful airs with abrasive and unwarranted blats of abrasive noise, continuing on with nearly 5 minutes of electronic wankery in a similar vein. This is where things for me getting difficult, as the whole EAI (electro-acoustic improvisation) aspect of this album begins to kick in. Things start to seem messy, chaotic and unnecessary as complicated and distorted textures tumble over each other in an incoherent yet frustratingly near-logical way. “Whole Earth Tascam” teeters on the precipice of intention, umming and ahhing over its sonic direction before segueing into the wildly unnecessary interstitial “GRM Blue I” and the dated synths and general noise knobbery of “GRM Blue II”. The entire middle sequence of this album is skippable and, in all honestly, pointless. There is no sense of purpose, no logical reason why any of it is there, just random, aimless noises butted against one another.

Thankfully it begins to redeem itself late game as the much more drone orientated “Racist Done” settles into place, shimmering and gliding with the assistance of some acoustic instrumentation darkly into the excellent “Traccia 09”, sounding hollow and resigned with its (pan-pipes?) and wailing electronica. Once it closes we may as well just skip “Grey Geisha” and the title track and jump straight to the end with “Vaccination No. 2” just to get it over with. We start to hear some Hecker like sounds push through with some really grating feedback and scary howls of sound falling away rapidly as the curtains finally fall on Instrumental Tourist.

It’s a frustrating album because, barring a few tracks, I feel like I can just skip through the latter part, if not the entirety, of most pieces and not feel like I’m missing anything. The entire record is a very messy and unstructured mass of sounds that just drift aimlessly in and out of their own accord. The improvisational aspect makes it feel just like two guys pissing around and experimenting; it’s cool in the process and sometimes they strike gold and produce something genuinely beautiful and interesting, but does it really deserve to be compiled and released? I feel no.