That world / Is but a simulated blur
Step away from Konoyo / Into the void
Not alone / You never were
Although this might look a little pretentious, I promise that I did not simply post my own poetry, but instead laid out the tracklisting to Tim Hecker’s Anoyo, the companion album to last year’s Konoyo.
For the sake of complete transparency – recommending this album is a cheat on my part. To suggest Anoyo, I must also establish Konoyo. And although I believe that both albums succeed independently, they undeniably sport a thematic link.
The recording sessions for both releases came about when Hecker – a seasoned ambient/experimental/electronic artist – traveled to a Japanese monastery to work with a traditional Gagaku outfit (ancient Japanese court music). From this initial point of conception, the music then veers wildly off course and into the compositional space of experimental electronic music.
2018’s Konoyo refers to “this world,” the physical space in which all of us interact. Indeed, the music lends itself to this definition with a chaotic profile. Hecker seamlessly blends the music of ancient Shintoism with layers of icy synths and slow-pulsing soundscapes. Although ambient in design, the music deviates far from the familiarized genre conventions established by Brian Eno.
But anyways – the album I’m supposed to be discussing is Anoyo. This title refers to “that world,” the ethereal afterlife. By dialing his electronics back towards more traditional ambient hums and audio-glitches, Hecker succeeds in illustrating both the terror and majesty of a soul transcending.
A notable example of this would be the closing track ‘You never were.’ Here, most of the Gagaku phrasing has been left untouched. Primeval but powerful instruments strum while chirping birds nose their way into the background. Moments like these illustrate more than a passing resemblance to the canon of Japanese Ambient/Environmental music, but when combined with Hecker’s subdued styling become an entirely different beast.
I can understand why one’s immediate reaction might be to scoff and write off everything I’ve said as some overly obtuse experiment, but that would be such a disservice to the raw power and emotion channeling through the music. Considering the song titles helps clarify this point. Anoyo tells a story, albeit a simple and esoteric tale: the human soul, passing beyond our world and into the next.
To me this is best exemplified by the transition between ‘Is but a simulated blur’ and ‘Step away from Konoyo.’ The former features an utterly violent use of percussion that slowly breaks off into a wall of synth. As this daunting sound dies though, several quiet but uneasy tones creep into the latter track. Closing your eyes, you can almost imagine the raging chaos of reality splitting around you, only to be whisked away into a vast but hushed cosmos.
At this point, I can’t even say how many times I’ve listened to just ‘Step away from Konoyo.’ This is by far the most “traditional” ambient song on the album, and there’s such a range of feelings which flavor it. Mystery, serenity, loneliness, sacredness. And although these descriptors might sound dramatic, the music’s subtlety somehow makes it work.
Reasonably speaking, I might be more interested in the spiritual subtext than most people. So please, don’t let my own rambling turn you off from giving Anoyo a listen.
Diving deep is not a requirement for appreciating the music. Zoom out of the album and center the moment around your work, some reading, a walk…or any other part of your life that could use an interesting soundtrack. That’s the beauty of any halfway decent ambient album. With so many unique ways to consume and appreciate the music, all you have to do is start with hitting play.