Tim Hecker - Radio Amor (Alien8 Recordings CD)
"Radio Amor" is not exactly a new album (it was released in 2002 to be precise) but it's been out of print for some time now and Alien8 have taken it upon themselves to reissue it, surely not an accidental choice considering Tim Hecker's recent surge in popularity. I'm under the impression that the label who originally released it, Mille Plateaux, has since gone under, so it only makes sense for Alien8 to step up to the plate and resurrect "Amor" especially considering they've been responsible for a huge portion of his back catalogue. The Alien8 reissued is released on this very day, and I believe features little to no changes from the original version (which I don't have so I can't compare). Also judging from the song titles and the little blurb on the Alien8 website, "Amor" is a pretty loose-definition concept album based around a seaside journey the composer may or may not have had. Although one listen to "Radio Amor" indicates to me that this kind of glacially orchestrated oceanic soundtrack could only be acheived by someone who not only lived it but felt it...man.
I don't want to exaggerate and say something along the lines of "much of the foundation for what Tim Hecker's currently producing can be found on this album" because in reality this album is only (only!) five years old and doesn't sound that far removed from what's been heard on recent albums "Mirages" (2004) and "Harmony in Ultraviolet" (2006). It is, in a sense, a bit choppier and less formed than those albums but there's still a more than few doozies on here well worth your time. The looped-keyboard clarion call of "Song of the Highwire Shrimper" sounds more like Terry Riley pounding out a rhythm in duo with Machinefabriek and "(They Call Me) Jimmy" remains easily one of Hecker's finest slices at five minutes in length, not to mention the fact that it predated the repeated ambient warmth raved about on the Buddha Machine by at least a few years. "I'm Transmitting Tonight" is the sound of falling in love aboard a vessel under the stars while "Careless Whispers" is the hot steam sound of the boat's boiler room. Hecker occasionally lets a mind-rifting drone escape unto the open like on the coarse shimmer of "7000 Miles" and eventual roar of the epic "Azure Azure". "The Star Compass" is like trying to play a crumbling 45 rescued from the depths of a sunken ship, recorded by a never-before-heard mermaid houseband on keyboards and laptops and the closing "Trade Winds, White Heat", like much of Hecker's sound, is imbued with a dual feeling of aching sorrow and enough hope to make you want to turn around and do the voyage all over again. If all the nautical references in here are setting bells off, then it's only appropriate, especially considering the backstory of the album. I wouldn't yet venture the opinion that "Radio Amor" is essential - newcomers would be advised to begin with "Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do it Again" and then jump right into "Harmony in Ultraviolet", but it sure isn't too far behind those either. On the other hand, if you recently discovered Tim Hecker via "Harmony" and don't know where to go next, Alien8 just helped make your choice easier.