Love Streams opens with melodic woodwinds – creating the brief illusion of perhaps a more placid effort from Hecker, following the jarring distortion of Virgins and glacial Ravedeath 1972. This illusion is predictably shattered by hollow percussion beginning to diffuse across the melody in brash, sweeping strokes of intensity not two minutes into the album. The ominous drone that wrests control of both the woodwinds and percussion by the end of this track serves to foreshadow the rest of the album as a whole, with a running theme of growing strength followed by inexorable decay throughout.
Album closer, Black Phase, is similar in that it serves as a microcosm of the album as a whole. A whisper of the opening woodwind melody and percussion is threatened by noise and pitchshifted vocals which eventually overcome the piece and force the album into an exhausted silence.
Between these two points, the album is driven by the conceptual arc of ascendance and decay, with the point between the Violet Monumental I and II its transcendental apex. Shimmering noise, broken-record chorus and a climbing synth lead are manipulated heavily on Violet Monumental I to build take the album to this height, only for that height to be broken down in Violet Monumental II, piece-by-piece, by the cello-like synth that acts in short bursts as a reductive force.
Aside from these tracks, there is but a scattering of excellence here and there, most notably the choral manipulation on Music of the Air and Castrati Stack and noise on Voice Crack – the latter of which taking the very essence of Virgins and deconstructing it in a fashion only Hecker could get away with.
The concept, however, is possibly the most interesting thing about this album. ‘Inspired by the liturgical aesthetics of Yeezus’, in Hecker’s own words, a view towards spirituality and mortality as the medium of transcendence is starkly evident on this album, with a nascent focus on pitchshifted chorus and organ synths being the main driving force of this sonically. The music video for Black Phase confirms this, with the opening moments being taken from a video of a rebel execution during the Vietnam War, cut short moments before any weapon is shown: a memento mori to round off the conceptual aspect of the album.
It’s not all high-concept and inaccessible though, taken at face value this is still a very enjoyable listen. If anything, Hecker proves time and time again that highly experimental music can be widely enjoyed and relevant to any music fan, no matter their experience or personal taste.
[Nour El-Issa – @dimredspectre]