Tim Hecker has carved out a unique niche for himself in the area of ambient electronic music over the course of the past couple years. Although he started out releasing minimal techno music under the name Jetone, he has since gone on to release a good portion of gauzy, sunbleached electronic music under his real name. He flirted with cock rock deconstruction (and lawsuits) on his My Love Is Rotten To The Core EP and released a loose conceptual album about travelling around the tropics with a boatman named Jimmy on his excellent Radio Amor.
With 2 full lengths and one EP under his belt, he's now back with Mirages, and it doesn't stray too far from the work that he's released thusfar. In relative terms, it's still what you'd expect given his previous work, but it does push things a little harder than you might expect. While Mirages is still beatless, it still manages to get very heavy at times, pulsing with a crushing weight of sound that's far more aggressive than anything he's done to date.
The album opener of "Acéphale" drops this heavy sound in your lap right off the bat. Opening with what sounds like the stifled squeals of a heavy-metal guitar, the track bellows and breaths into a heaving track that sheds layers of static as it crushes everything beneath it. In comparison, the following track of "Neither More Nor Less" is downright pretty. High-register melodies flutter over one another beautifully, panning back and forth while disembodied voices and found-sound play in the background. "Celestina" works in similar ways, mixing glitched melodies over sounds from the street.
Hecker gets back to thicker sounds in several places, though, and on "Balkanize-You" it literally sounds like the entire track is going to fold in on itself like some sort of black-hole as ultra-dense washes of sound buckle and slip, threatening to take the entire thing down with them. "The Truth Of Accountants" opens with a familiar loop of sound but soon become almost all-enveloping as both the pace and spectrum change. Oren Ambarchi adds some lovely guitar ringtones on "Kaito," while "Incurably Optimistic!" closes out the release with over 10 minutes of lovely delayed and filtered organ tones. It's not quite as giddy as the track title would lead one to believe, but it does escape from the more crushing weight of much of the rest of the release.
While Hecker is obviously very talented at what he does and has an excellent ear for creating unique sonics in a rather cluttered genre, there are times during Mirages where it definitely feels like he's re-visiting his own earlier work. It's not a bad thing when his output is consistently solid, but part of me wishes he'd bring back a little of the Jetone qualities to his work. After drifting through another album of textural ambient music, a little pulse might not hurt in adding some dynamics.