Tim Hecker is a Juno award-winning Canadian composer and sound artist. He has spent the last decade inhabiting a unique intersection between noise, dissonance, and melody. In his varied and celebrated works, digital and organic sources tightly intertwine. The result is a hybrid aesthetic that recalls electronic abstraction and psychedelic American minimalism. Hecker purposefully obfuscates the clear tonal distinctions of traditional instrumentation, preferring to cultivate enigmatic, uneasy soundscapes. The beauty and crush of Hecker’s sonically processed noise has been compared to “tectonic color plates” and “cathedral electronic music.” As the New York Times put it, he plays “foreboding, abstract pieces in which static and sub-bass rumbles open up around slow-moving notes and chords, like fissures in the earth waiting to swallow them whole.”
The veteran artist’s working environment has become less cloistered, more expansive and collaborative. In keeping, Hecker has worked with musician and engineer Frost, on the full-length Instrumental Tourist with Daniel Lopatin, and alongside musicians such as Oren Ambarchi , David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Aidan Baker. He has also collaborated with video artists Doug Aitken and Stan Douglas in several installation pieces. His remixes include John Cale, Philip Glass and the band Mogwai. Hecker’s work also includes commissions for contemporary dance, film scores, and various writings, having recently composed music for the documentary Massacred for Gold, which premiered at the Copenhagen Film Festival in late 2013.
Demdike Stare was founded in 2009 in Manchester, England by two well-known characters from that city’s music scene. Miles Whittaker, half of the respected dub techno duo Pendle Coven, has also recorded under the monikers MLZ and Daughter of the Industrial Revolution. Sean Canty is a renowned vinyl obsessive who worked at the label Finders Keepers and could often be found digging in the crates of local record shops for rare wax nuggets. His collection of obscure ’60s funk and soul records formed the basis for DJ Woody’s A Country Practice mixtape CD, on which he was credited under the name Sean Vinylment.
In Demdike Stare, Canty’s love for ultra-rare Middle Eastern soundtrack albums and icy Scandinavian drone music came together with Whittaker’s decade and a half of production expertise. The project’s name is an extension of Whittaker’s main act, Pendle Coven, which is named for the infamous 1612 witch trials centered around Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Elizabeth Southerns, better known as Demdike, was one of the central defendants in the case; she herself died while awaiting trial for witchcraft, but ten people, including several members of her family, were eventually hanged. It follows that the duo’s music should be suitably creepy, and it is; Demdike Stare’s haunting soundscapes, rooted in dub and the stark minimalism of techno, are infused with exotic rhythms and samples, and at times have a disturbingly otherworldly quality, as though transmitted from the other side.