Tim Hecker – Harmony In Ultraviolet (Kranky, 2006)

I was having a discussion a few weeks ago about poetry, prompted by my friend declaring that he “just doesn’t get it”. It was peculiar because I felt I was on that dangerous edge of being condescending in explaining its value and importance as an art form, how he shouldn’t approach it from the vantage of pure analysis, but also that I was being patronised for being unable to explain to him why it was that some verses I had quoted resonated with me so.

In my case, I had recited a short jisei haiku, a Japanese death poem I had recently read by Kiba that was hauntingly elegant. When asked with a smirk “and what does it mean to you?”, I felt unable to adequately respond. Such a work is self-contained, its message and meaning bound tightly to the clear imagery of the text. It would have been impossible for me to convey the totality of the emotional sentiment to someone who could not see, could not identify, with the reading itself. If one is unable to see the truth in a piece of art, to calibrate themselves and resonate  with the piece, no amount of discussion is capable of closing that divide.

What fascinates me about HiUV is that despite the lavish amounts of justifiable praise laid upon it over the last decade and more, not a single written piece has ever come close to, and most do not even attempt, discussing what it is about. To do so is a fool’s errand: HiUV is HiUV. The truth of it is in the experience, in being part of it. I can only provide pitiful analogy, suggestive scraps that fall well short of any experiential truth.

What can I tell you about it? There is a battle here, one akin to what we hear in Ravedeath, 1972, a feeling of descending disorder and disintegration that threatens to undo some natural order or established force. Structure remains, loosely, some binding scaffold from which the narrative performance adheres to, and there is an emotional bond that squeezes itself like mortar between the two. The vertiginous feeling of change, held right at the event horizon, or perhaps a vision of it in the rear view mirror, like we’re late to the party and just waking up now to the shift.

The nature of this calamity is certainly one up for debate. “Radio Spiricom” moves in torturous synths and thunderous static, SONAR pingings slicing through the emulsion of chaos around them with heartbreaking calls for aid in this digital sea. Cries for help from the internet domain, lost souls caught in the spotlight, searching for meaning? “ Spring Heeled Jack Flies Tonight” proffers similarly tantalising insights, laden as it is with hot and heavy drone distortions unfolding in urban labyrinthine tableaux. Simultaneity, the disease of the city, yet the fantastical within it also.

I see those urban/digital realms being plumbed in “Dungeoneering” and sophomore “Stags, Aircraft, Kings and Secretaries” also, though differently. The former is a weave of flashy, miasmic textures, shimmering mirages of transceiving tones mechanical and heartless, the subtle under print of heartbeat providing the human context. The latter meanwhile is more of a Radio Amor throwback, lost to a chugging fractal medley of oscillating industrialism that skitters with fragmentation in every direction.

The “Harmony in Blue” suite is the most restrained, the most obviously organic, an oasis in an artificial world. Delicate drones come and go, flotsam and jetsam on the urban tide, “III” lost to maudlin, lulling stillness at the record’s nadir. Dead light from TV sets flickering in suburban rooms, depressing ad fillers on the radio.

Is “it” too much yet? Whatever “it” is, this faceless nightmare, this non-explicit catastrophe so gracefully defined. “Whitecaps of White Noise I” peaks in destruction, cresting in urgency as its battering electronic flux expedites the undoing. Hecker’s iconic organ is obvious here, cathedrals of sound crumbling away like some low god crushed by the weight of modernity.

It finishes how it starts, with “Blood Rainbow” looping opener “Rainbow Blood”’s idiosyncrasies, the changes subtle but recognisable. The character has evolved, but how? It seems broken somehow, filled with a sense of something that cannot quite be placed, yet devoid of something which cannot be replaced. Intrinsic absence, mysteries.

I have implied too much already, suggested too many possibilities and implicated outcomes and experiences. Kiba’s jisei:

My old body:

a drop of dew

grown heavy at the leaf tip

The truth is in the piece but it is not for me, no, it is beyond me, to convey that to you. You must find it for yourself, and if you don’t, well, sometimes that’s the way it has to be. But, just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean you can’t feel something and let me tell you, HiUV is all in the feeling.