Hecker Trademark

Hecker's reputation in the present is a dissonant, dark, and sometimes cold ambient figure since the release of Mirages in 2004. His debut album Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again had a segmented, almost section by section approach within the album. Although the movement of his debut stagnated at points, it still showed immense potential within the structure of key songs. In 2003, Hecker released his sophomore effort Radio Amor, changing his previous arrangements in Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again with a more inter-connected foundation with only one track under 4 minutes, Radio Amor seems rich within its confines of its abundantly layered electronic ambiance.

The use of musical pitches and hisses within Hecker's song compositions is what makes him so alluring. While this isn't anything new, his use of key components within Radio Amor allows him to trump his previous efforts in Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again. Previously the gritty and randomized hisses felt something of a rejection within the construct of the song, but now these disowned irregular notes are enveloped within the piano keys that echo.

And these are the keys of Radio Amor - the keys of a piano. While minimalistic and repetitive, this approach fills the vacancy of the hiss and static nothingness within songs like "Songs of the Highwire Shrimper" and "7000 Miles" to obtain some heft and weight within itself. Despite its rhythmic feel, its minimalistic character adds a lot within the empty minutes some songs seem to have. Fortunately the piano isn't ever present within the entirety of Radio Amor, allowing his darkly tones and the fascinating, yet odd warmth taking precedence over the first track on "(They Call Me) Jimmy". The loopy and meditative two tones that move from low to sharp incorporates itself within the background voices and static nothingness is a satisfying break from Hecker's so-called silence (I'm speaking of the interplay between the static, dim whispers, and hiss that take over) allowing it to break through this wall, it captures the ear whenever it enters the track.

On the surface most of these songs seem a bit stagnate, if not consistent, but unseen previously is his use of building the whispers in an entirely different animal. Seemingly shifting from one-key or one-chord structures into calming waters of ambiance. By building upon this very minimal approach each song stands up on its own by adding rare chords or piano keys that sit atop the not-so random glitches and calming buzz. "I'm Transmitting Tonight" follows this, but in a backwards fashion. Starting from piano keys it slowly drops into the patented backdrops of silence.

Radio Amor feels connected for the main reason that Hecker chooses to skillfully employ his almost radio-transmitted pitch within all of these songs, as if something is always beckoning within the shadows. Quietly and almost unaware is it in "7000 Miles", but beyond the static oceanic waves that feel like they're washing over are the messages, the voices, but by songs end the buildup almost completely masks them into oblivion, only later to wash away its layers to show they're still there. Much like "7000 Miles", "Azure Azure" uses waves of static, but adds a 10 minute long expansion of glitches and lowly tones to broken chords that come in then drop immediately creating a sound that wants to break open. Halfway into the song its sound is in a state of regression only to be built up a barrier of noise to drop into more radio-transmitted voices.

Clearly Radio Amor is an understood album. It knows what it's doing, its aim, which is why it gets better on continued listens. Hecker translates his past work into a rhythmic, static warmth that welds itself into piano keys and single or two-tone movements allowing each buildup to be memorable. The glitchiness is still here as it was in Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again, but it is far more suppressed, if not intertwined within the album's foundation. For something that should feel so cold and inattentive it warms itself frequently because there is no void of silence or emptiness to hear.

Grade: B+

Download: V0(VBR)


Deeper Then Their Debut

Karin Dreijer probably got the message in one of those one-on-one family convos. Her brother sits her on the couch and then systematically begins to explain the "problems" that marred their debut album, that would be mainly her despicable lack of variance with her vocals. The Knife's debut may be at fault by both of the Dreijer's, but as it stood of the two Swedes Olof was the more consistent and the bright spot within the group for his production. Deep Cuts is practically a face-lift compared to their previous mundane piece of work of 2001.

If you contrast Deep Cuts and its red-headed step child The Knife's self-titled debut it comes of practically sensational. The production and use of beats are ramped in with high-tempos and addictive backgrounds, without detracting from Karin's vocals, which also have made a large leap forward. The electronic duo's invigorating blend of beats and poppy vocals is well balanced and it shows on the first two tracks. Both show their big club ability with Karin's vocals being a complete mainstay on both "Heartbeats" and "Girl's Night Out". The progression subsidizes slowly with the mood of the music only couple tracks later with "One For You". This type of smooth and unflinching progression was completely absent in 2001, which sent the listener into boredom and confusion.

Their ideologies still tend to tarnish the album as the unnecessary "The Cop" blares for a short 44 seconds. It is unfortunate to see some lopsided moments within this album as it is for the most part a solid album. "She's Having My Baby" is almost cringe-worthy with its deep, incomprehensible vocals, which I can only guess is Olof trying to perform.

Thankfully Deep Cuts seems to pick itself up every time it falls, which at times shows its inconsistency, but it isn't a deal breaker. "You Take My Breath Away" follows up on the disaster of "She's Having My Baby" with a fantastic vocal performance of Jenny Wilson with Karin Dreijer singing as a duo.

"We are the people who's come here to play
I don't like it easy
I don't like it straight away"

That purely infectious intro, which is later used as the chorus is their best work up to this point and if you can't seem to swerve to their side on this track, I don't know what will do it for you on Deep Cuts.

It is true that Deep Cuts is uneven in small portions as "Rock Classics" at first seems like a good idea, but it's odd sexual innuendo with short spurts of electric guitar seems a bit all over the place, that with Karin's odd, almost deep vocals that seem to instill paranoia then trust. The factors that take away from this album are definitely the approach the siblings took on here. Olof's vocals should be absent on the entire record, period, if not then sing in harmony with his sister to cloud over his problems. It can't be more evident than "She's Having My Baby", "It's My Medicine", "Got 2 Let U", and a genuine what the *** moment on "Hangin' Out" to see that Olof ruins any type of flow within those tracks. Secondly, Karin's re-emergence as a leading vocalist with the upped ante of Olof's fantastic production is a welcome sign for The Knife, but it still begs to question why they concern themselves with past atrocities in their debut. The utter playfulness that is all-over "You Make Me Feel Like Charity" and "Got 2 Let U" is more frustrating than involving in any way. The original release called for "Hangin' Out" to be the closer. The U.K. and U.S. versions have different closers, far superior to the original release. In the context of its original release it is a poor end brings down the album substantially, with the beginning of Deep Cuts showing much promise.

Grade: C+

Marko Polo's Exploration © 2008. Chaotic Soul :: Converted by Randomness