Remote Reviews

Tim Hecker: No Highs

Bret Easton Ellis careens full throttle down Mulholland Drive at dusk. The sun-bespectacled American author is behind the wheel of a black BMW E30 M3, his foot depressing the accelerator to the floorboard as he shifts up and back between second and third gears, the automobile snarling in sympathy and tightening around the road’s curvaceous contours.

Ellis reaches into the glovebox and produces a sleek glass canister three-quarters full of cocaine. Fingering the steering wheel, he skillfully removes the canister’s cap and measures out a small hill of the fine white powder onto a manicured thumbnail and raises it to his nostril and hastily inhales.

A complex combination of chemically induced endorphins rushes through his bloodstream and his pupils dilate as he adjusts the rear-view mirror, catching in it momentarily a glimpse of his own weathered visage, no worse for the wear, with a mind no less brilliant than ever before. Still got it, he says to himself, winking and discharging a gun-like finger at his reflection.

Ellis slams the steering wheel and emits a loud howl and shakes his head from side to side and sniffs again deeply, wiping the residual dust from his nasal passage with an index finger and rubbing it greedily upon his gums. A guilt-laden euphoria washes over Ellis, a flicker of nostalgia for the days when sniffing cocaine in a black BMW E30 M3 whilst careening down Mulholland might have seemed exciting and new. But time and routine have dulled the pleasures of transgression and Ellis now fumbles under the armrest for a particular CD case.

He locates it and opens it and removes the glistening silver disc housed therein and the disc disappears into the dashboard stereo system. Ellis cranks the volume knob clockwise, numerals scrolling faster than the stereo’s digital screen can display them, and the opening notes of Tim Hecker’s latest recording scorch the Santa Monica airwaves.

Forthwith the car and its captain are bathed in oceans of harmonic distortion and searing melodies that ache and yearn for some unattainable but nonetheless existent perfection, a lament to the heavens that the rapture is not materializing quickly enough, that this superficial plane lacks a more revelatory spiritual significance.

An expanse of twinkling lights stretches out in the distance and Ellis is struck as if for the first time by the inconsequence of his own existence and the magnitude and scale of creation, and of capitalism’s insatiability for its fruits and fields, a genocidal carnage once sweeping the American West where, right there, right then, his BMW’s wheels were busy skimming the asphalt.

Hecker’s score crescendos. The car shudders and its driver is teleported to a transcendent realm and Ellis’s soul fleetingly parts ways with his body and he is suddenly privy to an eagle-eye view of his vehicle as it twists and turns across the road that cuts a narrow swath westward from Cahuenga Pass in Hollywood to Sepulveda Pass and beyond. Soaring high above the valley, Ellis’s disembodied spirit cannot help but be overwhelmed by a sense of love and oneness with all that is gone and all that’s to come.

It is at this precise second that the car hits a bump and the compact disc skips off and out and Ellis’s soul descends like a balloon deflated and he snaps back, belted into the BMW’s driver’s seat. Had he attained nirvana just then while listening to Tim Hecker?

Ellis reaches for his iPhone which rests idly in the passenger seat and, finding it, he takes to Twitter to inform his followers eagerly of this near death, near life, experience. The tweet is immediately liked and retweeted hundreds of times and eventually, algorithmically, finds its way into the Canadian composer Tim Hecker’s feed where he reads it with a bemused self-satisfaction.

Hecker closes the web browser and toggles back to a screen with representations of waveforms and meters and faders and, sipping from a coffee mug, clicks a block of audio into place with a cursor.◼︎

No Highs is released 7 April 2023 via Kranky

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A Sweet Little Bullet From a Pretty Blue Gun

Tim Hecker, Lotus Light, No Highs (Kranky)

Rejection is the saddest sensation you will ever know. Yes, it’s the saddest sensation that you’ll ever know. And unless you’re Brad Fucking Pitt — or hot enough to get fucked by Brad Fucking Pitt — you have felt rejected.

If I had to give feelings colours, I’d say that rejection is a brown feeling. Usually we call it the blues. But to me, it’s brown. Like a Corinthian leather steering wheel, like the bottom of an ashtray in a 1980s taxicab, like carpet in a motel kitchenette. Rejection starts in the gut and radiates as a punch does, like that slow motion footage of a fat man shot in the stomach with a cannonball. It ripples out like a toothache. It’s a constant, nagging pain aggravated when you exercise it. Rejection is like a bad polyester pantsuit that you’re forced to wear in public that everyone can see looks hideously ugly but that you cannot cover up or doff. Rejection always comes when you need it least, too, when the opposite of rejection is what you sought. Nobody ever gets rejected by accident; we get rejected when at first we shoot for acceptance and miss.

Perhaps the worst part of rejection is that, in the end, there is nothing you can do. You can’t make a sound and logical argument for why you should not have been rejected, why the rejecter is the mistaken one and should reconsider their miscalculations. You have to move on. All you can do is put on that brown polyester pantsuit and get back out there.

Warhol x 6, La Cinémathèque Québécois, 26, 27, & 28 January 2023

We are lucky in Montreal to have the Cinémathèque and a cinema culture that brings things like Andy Warhol movies on 16mm. We are lucky in Montreal to have projectionists technically proficient enough to execute a dual screen film as seamlessly as a pair of Ibiza DJs. And we are lucky to have smart people here to talk with about these experiences, to elucidate the light.

Warhol’s films aren’t easy viewing. They force spectators to look at the medium as much as the message; they’re distant as much as they are intimate. And there is a special kind of intimacy watching reels of couples kissing whilst sat alone in the dark surrounded by Concordia students reeking of cigarette smoke. It’s a reminder that we will all one day just disappear in a puff of dust.

Leon Louder, Autocorrecting, You’re Killing Me, Bro (Unfulfillment + Stranger Ways Recordings)

Machines that think for us are often not that smart. We might call them smartphones, smart watches, smart TVs, but they do not demonstrate intelligence. At best, they’re kind of clever.

For a brief period in the 1990s there was a moment when we thought that technology was going to save humanity. Those of us who came of age in that decade are used to a soured technotopian worldview, as if some ideal intelligence had been robbed of us. But we must remember that automation had forever been widely considered a nightmare — from Modern Times to Westworld, twentieth century culture reflected a deep-seated mistrust of machines.

Quatuor Bozzini, Du nord, Espace Orange Édifice Wilder, 29 January 2023

We believe that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, making it sound as if its a priori, always-already existence is a forgone conclusion. However, it is only as old as professions themselves, meaning that it is only as old as capitalism, as old as exploitation, patriarchy, domination. Prostitution will fall away along with these antiquated socioeconomic orders. Prostitution is not a fact of life that we must deal with, but rather a symptom along with a number of other symptoms of a sick society.

The problem is neither an economic nor an ethical one but, as Jean Francois Lyotard argued, libidinal. As long as there is sexual jealousy, there will be capitalism. Communism is laced with the whiff of free love, a terrifying notion to property owners. But in practice, communistic sexuality was only ever a blunt hierarchy in which, inevitably, a local totalitarianism more political than the explicitly political form of global totalitarianism arose. Property is not the lowest common denominator of capital; sex is. There is no need for private property or even for privacy if sex is free — if sex and sexuality are freely liberated. We will never be free as long as bodies are valued along with abstract concepts like time and money and a sense of free will. That is why sexual violence is so effective in military aggression. It is colonization to the corps.

Laure Briard, Ne pas trop rester bleue, Ne pas trop rester bleue (Midnight Special Records)

Women, man. I have been blessed with lovely ones. They liked me. Some of them might have even loved me. Some of them cheated on their boyfriends with me. I didn’t object. God gave us crack and anal sex because there is a crack in everything, especially asses. Sorry, did I say blessed? I meant cursed. Cursed by beautiful women and their accumulated history. And asses.

Women when the bloom is off a man’s corsage are the coldest creatures known to man. An unambiguous chill moves in to replace that youthful warmth and softness when you’ve felt it, when you’ve had it to the point of possession, comprehended it so comprehensively that the memory of a feminine embrace returns like an acid flashback, recalled like a faulty Volkswagen, brakes disabled, in flames. In those moments there is only imagination and remembrance.

They say it is better to have loved and lost. This city is love’s lost and found box, and it seems there’s more loss out there than there is love.◼︎