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Hecker - Sun Pandämonium

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Artist: Hecker

Album: Sun Pandämonium

Label: Mego

Review date: Apr. 16, 2003

File Under: Computer Music

Sun Pandamonium's 20-minute centerpiece, the extraterrestrial "Stoocha Acid Zlook," draws the listener into a dense electronic system of squiggles and chatters. While not the album's first track, it serves as an introduction to Florian Hecker's universe of computer music, the apparently preferred term for this unique manipulation of electronics. The phrase conjures images of massive clunky machines, the days when processors consumed an entire room. Computer music can't be a smooth laptop performance; it's a bit rougher around the edges, a bit unrefined. It's the Apple IIgs instead of the hot, new G4.

When Sun Pandamonium begins, the distinction becomes clear. "Bsf tyk 5" sounds like an ending more than a beginning. A series of tones descend in pitch, stutter, then repeat. Their calm contrasts the striking dynamics that await. "Stoocha Acid Zlook" begins with a steady low hum. The presence serves as a guide through a detailed landscape of swirly sine waves, bustling chirps, and whiny squeals. Reluctant sounds mingle on the periphery while the more daring ones pop into the foreground, curious to peer back at their foreign observer. On occasion, the familiar low hum drops away, absorbed by the surrounding busyness. The intrepid listener is left to gaze in wonder.

Such a narrative pull, the feel of moving through this environment, does not inhabit the rest of the album. The other tracks offer impeccable textures of brittle rhythm, delicate drips, and high-pitched skitters and slides. While perhaps difficult for some ears, Hecker's honed fireworks won me over.

The sounds recall electro-acoustic composers more than other computer musicians, especially his label mates on the excellent Vienna-based Mego Records. These tracks are not sample-based; they do not betray analog roots. Pita, Fennesz, and Jim O'Rourke (to name a few recent Mego artists) use guitars, accordions, and clock bells to create fuzzy, globular, and appealing sounds that transform the signal, but keep melody intact. Hecker arrives from a different world altogether. He begins and ends at the computer, polishing his crystal clear creations with a noisy edge or hollow metallic echo. The brittle edge of some tracks can sound harsh or even cold, but the startling and upfront production on Sun Pandamonium allows every scrape and skitter to jump out and demand attention.

By Jeff Seelbach

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