Canadian producer Tim Hecker’s JUNO Award-winning LP from 2011, Ravedeath, 1972 was the (augmented) result of one day of recording in a Reykjavik church, the pipe organ both its foundation and the fount of the album’s malevolent darkness and breathtaking, cavernous intensity.
With his follow-up, Hecker cements his reputation as a master craftsman of minimalist and thrillingly modern, deeply (if unintentionally) devotional music for our digital and secular age, of a kind that recalls an update of Debussy’s “Submerged Cathedral” by John Carpenter and Ligeti. This ecclesiastical ambience is underlined by track titles such as “Virginal I” (and “Virginal II”), “Incense at Abu Ghraib” and the two-part “Stigmata.”
For Virgins, Hecker recorded mostly live during three sessions in Seattle, Montreal and again in Reykjavik, using piano, woodwind and synthesizers to his transportive ends. These 12 compositions have a simultaneous illusory, endlessly shape-shifting quality and a sharp-edged, crystalline brilliance, both of which have been explored by other cosmic-house producers (Rustie, Oneohtrix Point Never, Blanck Mass), but it’s Hecker’s conceptual nous that puts him ahead of the game.
Impossible though it may be to map the world of Virgins — with its radiant drone and urgent, interlocking rhythmic loops, its crosscurrents of joyously cacophonous harpsichords, its ominous, white-noise hissing, elegant piano interludes and occasional thick crackle which sounds like a radio transmission from deep space — that world has a monumental physical presence. Hecker’s latest is literally awesome.