Much like the universally acclaimed Ravedeath, 1972 Tim Hecker’s new release demands a lot of the listener. Hecker’s work is, above all else, textural and often requires consideration and empathy from the listener before it becomes decipherable, let alone accessible. In this respect Virgins is much like its predecessors. In other ways, however, it differs from his most recent work, containing a softer palette of textures and a percussiveness that breathes a certain bodiless life into the proceedings.
As might be expected with an album titled Virgins, there is a recurring theme of innocence that runs through this work, often in a hymnal, lyrical sense. Yet this innocence, which often sparkles with life, is repeatedly underscored by a foreboding or a threat of what is to come. It is not dark per se, rather it is a continual suggestion of uncertainty and change. At times there are stuttered hints at a revelation but all too often we return to where we were; keening for something that we’re wary of yet feel is inevitable, or confused and alone not knowing what has just been missed.
In spite of this, as far as Hecker’s work goes this is a relatively open work, and only ‘Live Room’ feels punishing in its oppressiveness. Elsewhere there is always some space, some light, some escape, perhaps particularly so in ‘Live Room Out’ which is far warmer and looser than its companion piece.
The biggest surprise is saved for last, however, when after an album full of uncertainty ‘Stab Variation’ provides a transcendent moment. With the atmospheric subterfuge lifting, and Hecker’s love of leaving hints of source material shining through, the narcotic remnants of a distant house track are revealed.
Virgins highlights the acute focus Tim Hecker brings to his work, both though the carefully constructed textural waves that keep the listener continually guessing what is to come as well as through the rich and intimate live recording that keeps the listener engrossed throughout.