Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin

Instrumental Tourist

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. So it’s an occasion when one does.

This man’s world is composed of little boys’ clubs. Burial, Thom Yorke, and Four Tet; Dean Blunt and James Ferraro; Burial and Massive Attack; Breakage and Burial; Atoms for Peace … Loutallica — they’re something like secret societies. Boys love in-jokes and high-fives and treehouses and covert ops and complex knocks. There are reasons why priests and presidents and freemasons and David Icke all happen to be dudes. Despite the nefarious shit, they cobble together some pretty nice edifices too. All except David Icke.

If and when I picture audio, I liken it to architecture. Buildings constructed of fluctuating frequency, demolished and rebuilt through reverberation; living ziggurats that I want to be a tourist in for a while. The substantial solo works of Dan Lopatin and Tim Hecker are especially engineered thus. Hecker’s cornerstone bass throbs and storeys-high harmonic distortion are naturally skeletal frameworks for Lopatin’s elaborate frontispieces and ornamental flourishes. Instrumental Tourist is the infrastructure between two moody monuments, and also the groundwork for an important new assemblage. It’s an intermittent architecture, a labyrinth of attractions made of sonics and confusing handshakes.

There’s an equally procedural and playful auditory quality at work here, an intricate maze, all paths spiralling toward the centre, to the mountaintop. ‘Vaccination (for Thomas Mann)’ is a melancholy number that activates abruptly with the reflexive performance of self, out of tune, slightly, becoming majestic, a ceremonial ritual. The nervous and reiterative pulse of ‘Whole Earth Tascam’ measures out webs of synthesised choir around troubled strings. Highpoint ‘Racist Drone’ is the album’s hallelujah chorus of cultural violence, forlorn chords masking the cries of a diseased koto. And ‘Grey Geisha’ invokes human traffic, the circulation of exploited souls, a cunning conversation between seductive pan flute and metallic melodic tendrils.

Still, everybody hates a tourist, especially when it all seems such a laugh. And there was a chance that this enterprise could chuckle itself into a corner. That’s ultimately where quick collaborators for cash wind up, do they not? Nevertheless, it’s evident that the project began a little slackened, as slapdash partnerships might, but became staid and sober when the duo realized how good it could be. No. When they recognized that they had a responsibility to establish it as it should be. Yes. It is well within range.

Because you produced the conditions for this record, dear listener. You bought and stole the Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never albums, and conferred their degrees, as it were. You paid or not for the expensive toys that these boys deploy in their clubhouses, to forge this esoteric noise. And you demand a masterpiece from fellow craftsmen. All drones are not created equal. This is uptown psychedelia, not downtown trash.

In the inaugural issue of the Whole Earth Catalog, luminary Stewart Brand writes, "We are as gods and might as well get good at it." In Instrumental Tourist, Hecker and Lopatin have struck upon a secret chord, traced sacred geometries, and laid a foundation sturdy enough to build upon. It’s sound as structure, structurally sound.

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