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March 23, 2009

For this, our first set of reviews here on Gunshy, I’m looking at An Imaginary Country, by Tim Hecker, and Watersports, by Mi Ami.

Tim HeckerAn Imaginary Country (Kranky, 2009)

This new record from Montréal sound artist Tim Hecker finds him working with a similar palette as on his 2006 release Harmony in Ultraviolet. It follows closely on the trail of 2008’s Fantasma Parastasie, a collaboration between Hecker and fellow Montréal artist Aidan Baker, and will certainly appeal to anyone who enjoyed said release’s splendid sound.

Hecker’s ambient discography goes back about a decade, and follows a course through minimal, glitchy static-type compositions, to, more recently, textured drone compositions. His skill with and ear for sounds are both showcased in fine style here. Each track on this record drifts and pulses with layers of intriguing tones. These pieces follow similar trajectories, for the most part: they are established, build, are sustained for a period and then trail off, usually into the next piece. The record is very coherent in that way, and a number of the tracks can be rearranged and still flow into one another quite well. Nothing too long, nothing too dynamic, too noisy or too quiet here, most of the tracks simmer and hum vibrantly for a few minutes and then dissolve.

There are lead elements out front generating wonderful, untraceable melodies that swim off before you can grasp them fully, but it is the dronescapes underneath that end up making the bigger, and longer-lasting impressions while listening. It is all synth, some guitar and samples, but none of it is much recognisable as any particular instrument sound or another, and it manages to not sound too digital or processed. Some of it is really quite beautiful, and all twelve pieces work well as a whole. A good record to put on while you go outside and look at things.

A video excerpt of a live performance, featuring one of the pieces on this album (music starts around 2:32):

***

Mi AmiWatersports (Touch and Go / Quarterstick, 2009)

This still-up-and-coming San Fransisco trio are doing some serious work. This, their first LP, is reminiscent at times of The Pop Group, et al., in its mixing of punk, dance, dub and funk rhythms, but it ends up in a more expansive place. The record is quite unceasing, but leaves a lot of space for sounds to echo and bounce around in at the same time.

Each song is based in patterns, which are hardly strayed from, creating a tension that only occasionally breaks free in vocal yelps, drum fills or guitar bursts. With each track, they establish a groove and build on it, creating prolonged, organic-sounding, spazzy dance explorations full of dark, steady, repetitive lines, nailing each song into the floor by the time it’s done.

This record is dubby, and deeply groovy. It’s full of chilling bass sounds that can’t be described very well, hi-hat taps and toms, screeching vocals, and bright, choppy guitar. It’s based entirely in rhythm, rather than riffing and usual pop song dynamics, using every instrument in close relation with the others to form the songs as entireties. The band discusses their approach and sound a bit in this short interview.

A very tight group, with a sound of their own. Probably not for everyone, but a unique, undeniable record. Keep an eye on this one.

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