Tim Hecker & Stephen O’Malley at MUTEK

2 June 2012

Montreal sound artist Tim Hecker and Seattle hesher Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) fame joined forces for the 13th edition of MUTEK in Montreal to play the historic and recently refurbished St. James United Church in the heart of centre-ville. With O’Malley on guitars and pedals and Hecker playing the church’s monstrous pipe organ, and adding electronics here and there, the effect was powerful and hypnotic as an intense drone filled the church – the only light source a red glow pulsating from the stage.

A steady rain poured outside, as I sat up in the mezzanine, stoned and a little bit drunk, gazing at the beautiful architecture and thinking of how this was such an amazing combination of the sacred and secular. The venue was a perfect choice, catering to the wall of sound Hecker and O’Malley slowly built, while adding a touch of reverence and fear for the end of days. At about the halfway mark, the volume reached its crescendo and I had to pop in my earplugs, feeling as if the sound was actually coming out of me, coming out of everyone in the church really…the feedback a visceral and palpable vibration emanating from our very pores. It was pretty sensational. At times, O’Malley really crunched up his riffs, dropping D, and getting all gloom and doomy, while at other moments the sound would slowly drift into a more dulcet drone and allow us to catch out breath, until O’Malley’s guitar would blast off again.

Even though I found this show thrilling, I must admit I became restless about 30 minutes in. Perhaps the weed had something to do with it, or maybe I wasn’t quite in the right headspace for a subjective 90 minute drone-fest. Or maybe, I was really kinda hoping Hecker was going to treat us to Ravedeath, 1972 instead of playing in tandem with O’Malley. Still, it was a fascinating take on sound collaboration and improvisation by two of today’s finest experimental artists, as well as, a highlight of this year’s excellent MUTEK festival.

– sound quality is good, pic not so good, watch in HD
– media courtesy of Jacquelyn Taylor

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