Release Date: Nov 19, 2012
Record label: Software
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Experimental Ambient, Glitch
Hecker and Lopatin are perhaps the most preeminent figures currently making ambient music but the strength of this record comes from their disregard for coherence and disinterest in finding common ground. Their warring improvisations are intriguing, unsettling and often exquisite. The record is built from swatches of sound, ripped, stitched and ruptured into radiophonic disharmony.
The first volume of SSTUDIOS, a series of collaborative releases released on Daniel Lopatin's Software imprint, Instrumental Tourist pairs Lopatin with Tim Hecker, another artist who excels at drone-based electronic music, on a set of largely improvised songs. Most of the album doesn't feel like a meeting of the minds so much as a melding of them. It's difficult, in the best possible way, to tell which artist contributed which elements to any given track; one could make a guess about the glitches and torqued string melody on a piece like "Uptown Psychedelia," but the way Hecker and Lopatin combine their styles into a versatile mix of melody, drone, and distortion on "Ritual for Consumption" and the title track is too seamless to dissect.
There probably aren't two electronic artists making music right now who fit together better than Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never, Ford & Lopatin) and Tim Hecker. On their solo albums, both men have made art out of surprising and sometimes uncomfortable reimaginings of ambient, drone, and trip-hop, albeit in different ways. Hecker's work is generated with vintage keyboards and creates a sort of "sonic decay," while Lopatin's output as Oneohtrix Point Never focuses more on repeating melodies and the interruptions of those melodies.
In the world of instrumental electronic music, you're nothing without your own sound. Without vocals and without an instrument that you can manipulate with your body, it's harder to insert "you" into the music. And harder still to have that "you" be so thoroughly "you" that listeners pick up on it and can identify you from your sonics alone. Both Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (better known as Oneohtrix Point Never) have gotten there.
Tim Hecker and Daniel LopatinInstrumental Tourist[Software Recording Co. ; 2012]By Colin Joyce; December 5, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt’s a curious prospect, the musical marraige of perhaps the two most visible heads of a genre, but such is the state of ambient music in 2012, and with a notable exception in perhaps the continued presence of the Godfather of the genre, Brian Eno, Daniel Lopatin and Tim Hecker have become it. That’s not to say that these dudes haven’t put in the work.
Composers Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin make broad assumptions in their music. They assume you have all the time in the world, and that you have an affinity for twitchy experimental blends. Their sounds are tough to endure at times and you have to be in a pensive mood to enjoy them. But that’s what makes Hecker and Lopatin stand out: their music is a meticulous exercise of creative freedom, and an alternative to the mundane, even if you’re not sure what you’re hearing.
When two well-respected genre innovators join forces for one unified effort, corny phrases like “all-star collaboration” and “dream team” often get thrown around in anticipation. And while these phrases might seem applicable in referring to Instrumental Tourist, which features drone-masters Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (of Oneohtrix Point Never), it’s important to remember that these artists make music that is incredibly anti “all-star. ” While some musicians in other electronic or experimental genres like to hide their identity to detach themselves from their music, anonymity is almost second-hand to ambient/drone artists.
The phrase “Instrumental Tourist,” the title of this collaborative album by Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), denotes a sense of control from the outside. The tourist is someone on an excursion, and to be instrumental is to be without agency, or at least with an agency framed by or angled toward a larger goal. What does it mean to be an “Instrumental Tourist” other than to be displaced yet useful? Instrumental Tourist, then, can perhaps be seen as an allegory for the state of humanity both today and as it has always been.
Cosmic collaboration from two electronic masters…In an early interview Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, attributed his hermetic sonic obsession and reluctance to play in a band to megalomania. Listening to the reticent cosmic melancholy of his music – most famously his “echojam” “Nobody’s Here”, which spliced an ectoplasmic sliver of Chris De Burgh’s “The Lady In Red” to a pixilated clip from an old Mario Kart game – you might have taken that confession with a cellarful of salt. Nevertheless since 2009’s compilation Rifts brought his work to a wider audience, he’s got into the (altered) zone, and is now shaping up to be hardest working man in dronebiz.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. It's a phrase beloved of disapproving grandmothers and prissy flatmates, but not one with which you suspect Tim Hecker concurs. For while the Canadian artist's music has often explored the kind of transcendental states associated with religious reveries—most explicitly the pipe organs of 2011's Ravedeath, 1972—it's always been smeared with a dissonant hiss.
The pretentious art scene could honestly be a little more menacing. While definitely Unsound Festival material (where they just finished playing) with an unbridled—if not uncompromising—bent for the experimental, this collaboration between Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) unfortunately buckles under the weight of its largely inaccessible vision. It’s one thing to be sublime, it’s quite another to be incomprehensible (though “Vaccination [for Thomas Mann]” does stand out as an unwavering tower of spatial beauty).
Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin are, for the moment, essentially the Big Names of the current ambient drone scene. Hecker has seen his star rise in recent years with the releases of Harmony in Ultraviolet and Ravedeath, 1972, albums which found Hecker creating suites of electronic drone that drift through each other until seemingly endless clouds of noise and static create a sense of both epiphany and dread. At his best, the most cathartic moments of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Silver Mt.
This is the first in a planned series of collaborations curated by NYC's Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), this time featuring Juno-winning Montreal ambient drone maker Tim Hecker. The proceedings begin with "Uptown Psychedelia," one of the album's standout tracks, which is so Hecker-heavy you could be forgiven for asking, "So, where's Lopatin?" As the album progresses, the trademark sound of both musicians becomes apparent in the twisting interplay and Hecker's mountain-shaking distortion allows room for Lopatin's neo-kosmische noodling. Based on a three-day improv session at Mexican Summer studios in Brooklyn, NY, Hecker and Lopatin's goal was to jam using the clichéd sounds of an "Instruments of the World" MIDI pre-set suite.
Announcements that Daniel Lopatin and Tim Hecker were preparing a collaborative album had the Resident Advisor-faithful buzzing and Watch the Drone zingers abounding, and for good reason. As Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin joins undulating synths and an innovative form of plunderphonics ? early recordings consisted of miscellaneous sounds and loops that Lopatin excavated from YouTube while bored at a 9-to-5 ? to form some of the most powerful, and most unnerving, electronic music of the past few years. Hecker, meanwhile, has taken a much less intricate approach ? his sound is founded in massive synth waves and, usually, not much else ? but has proven just as immersive, thanks to his virtuosic sense of how even the most homogenous sounds can shift and build to create something mesmerizing.
One of every twenty-six heavy-hitting electronic musician collaborations for cash is actually worth a damn. I don't have the data in front of me this very second, but it's been scientifically proven. Together, artists who otherwise make stellar music alone do not necessarily comprise a supergroup. More often than not, these kinds of bromances total less than the sum of their parts, not more.
The unholy alliance of Canadian Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin is a dissonant match made in hell. Both have become increasingly visible practitioners of drone smeared in hiss and distortion, almost like the sound of ailing machines gasping for breath. In this regard, ‘Instrumental Tourist’ is an ideal collaboration; Hecker’s constant interference always threatening to overtake – but never quite doing so – Lopatin’s bottom end sound waves.