By Cassie Hyde
Photography: Nico Stinghe
Hidden away in the labyrinths of Salford industrial estates is The White Hotel, a disused car garage repurposed as a DIY venue. Drinks are sold through a hole in the floor, originally used by mechanics to work underneath vehicles. The White Hotel’s unique charm has quickly made it one of the most beloved underground spots in the city, with the venue hosting everything from glitchy electronic to wonky indie rock.
Known for his avant-garde, industrial, electronic soundscapes, Tim Hecker and The White Hotel seem like the ultimate pairing. What was interesting about this performance, however, came in the form of a small piece of paper guests were given on arrival. It read: ‘During Tim Hecker’s performance, the venue will be submerged in complete darkness’.
‘Complete darkness’ may be a slight exaggeration, but apart from the light coming from Hecker’s equipment, little could be made out. The room was pumped full of dry ice to the point where all you could see of the crowd were a couple of hazy figures. Hecker could not be seen.
To the more cynically minded, this concept may seem like an unnecessary gimmick, and whether it was the idea of the venue, the promoters, or Hecker himself, remains unclear. It is also hard to tell if this was a deliberate statement or simply done because it sounded like a cool idea. In my mind, this is irrelevant, because it totally worked.
Without the ability to see pretty much anything else, the result was a heightening of other senses. It made it all about the music rather than the person behind it, or anything else. This seems even more obvious, since it is impossible to make out Hecker from the haze.
Plus, it was hard for it not to be ‘all about the music’. This is one of the loudest shows I’ve ever been to. You could feel the vibrations throughout your body at even quite moment. With a set made up entirely of songs from his latest album, Love Streams, this is incredible apparent on songs such as ‘Music Of The Air’.
Made up of pulsating tones with a backdrop of sporadical, interwoven choral vocals, `Music Of The Air` become literally true. The song was so long that you could feel a wave of air hit you as the vibrating tones changed.
The loudness also works well on ‘Castrati Stack’, where choral vocals and synths are interrupted by loud bursts of static. On the album, the noise of the track sounds industrial, yet beautiful – think Nine Inch Nails colliding with Sigur Rós. When played live, however, these bursts of noise literally make you jump. With the darkness, the surprise is all apparent – you feel like you are being assaulted by the sound, making the song feel violent and claustrophobic.
Something Hecker does well is the sheer variety of sounds he produced. ‘Obsidian Counterpoint’ features sequencers, pan pines, woodwind and glitchy fuzz guitar. ‘Violent Monumental’ opens with choral vocals to a pulsing electronic background, a middle section similar to something the XX would produce, all ending in percussive synth horns and oboe.
The set was over in just under an hour, which worked in its favour. While there is a great deal of variety on Love Streams, there is also a lot of choral vocals, a lot of similar synth rhythms and a lot of glitchy, fuzz guitar work. If the set was longer and didn’t have any different material, Hecker’s music would have stretched thin. Although, it would have been nice to hear more material, especially from his breakout albums Ravendeath, 1972 and Virgins.
Regardless of this, out of the darkness and the smoke, Tim Hecker brought something very unique to The White Hotel. Something ethereal. Something loud. Something special.