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The latest by Canadian composer Tim Hecker serves as a beacon of unease against the deluge of false positive corporate ambient currently in vogue. Whether taken as warning or promise, No Highs delivers—this is music of austerity and ambiguity, purgatorial and seasick. A jagged anti-relaxant for our medicated age, rough-hewn and undefined.
Morse code pulse programming flickers like distress signals while a gathering storm of strings, noise, and low-end looms in the distance. Processed electronics shiver and shudder against pitch-shifting assemblages of crackling voltage, mantric horns (including exquisite modal sax by Colin Stetson), and cathedral keys. Throughout, the pieces both accrue and avoid drama, more attuned to undertow than crescendo. Hecker mentions “negation” as a muse of sorts—the sense of tumult without bombast, tethered ecstasies, an escape from escapism. His is an antagonism both brusque and beguiling, devoid of resolution, beckoning the listener ever deeper into its greyscale alchemies of magisterial disquiet.