Tim Hecker and Forest Swords @ St. Philip’s Church, Salford 16/05/12
It’s not often that you get two of the last couple of year’s most critically revered musicians on the same bill. The opening night of Manchester’s ongoing Future Everything festival saw just that, as Wirral’s Forest Swords and Montreal ambient demiurge Tim Hecker descended upon Salford’s St. Philip’s Church.
An elusive live show from Forest Swords, making his Manchester debut, was first up. Indeed, he almost didn’t make it as we were informed that he and his crew were involved in a car crash on the way to the gig. Seemingly unfazed however, he began the set with single ‘Rattling Cage’ and from that moment it was obvious that the church was the perfect setting for the show. The venue’s reverb complemented perfectly Forest Sword’s hauntology-inspired jams and the sell-out audience was treated to a combination of live reworkings of tracks from 2010’s Dagger Paths and new material from his forthcoming debut LP. Nobody was left with any doubt that there was more to the act than the dubby psychedelic surface, with a drum and bass-esque outro to ‘If Your Girl’ and a new track backed with a lush four-to-the-floor house beat. Rest assured that if the live show is anything to go by then the album, whenever it may land, will be very special.
Then onto Mr. Hecker himself. We were informed before the show that he would be performing in complete darkness and, save for the fading natural light from outside and two candles beside his church organ and laptop set-up, it was exactly that. Hecker mostly performed tracks from last year’s fantastic Ravedeath, 1972, opening with ‘The Piano Drop’, and again the atmosphere and acoustics of the church complemented his sounds.
Natural light dimmed as the beautiful soaring of the organ was interspersed with violent rumbles and unsettling dissonance for over an hour. Of the numerous goosebump-inducing moments throughout, a particular highlight was the run of ‘No Drums’ and Harmony In Ultraviolet’s ‘Chimeras’. The audience was mostly silent for the whole set, focused on nothing but Hecker’s sound engulfing the space around them.
It was impossible to make the artist or the other audience members out in the darkness, which only added to the mystique of the show and reflected perfectly the isolationism in Hecker’s work. I was unaware exactly how Hecker made his sound and I only had my own thoughts and feelings towards what I could hear. The thematic concept behind Ravedeath, 1972 of sonic decay, of music being cheapened in the digital age, is probably the reason behind his choice to play in the dark. It wasn’t possible to go to this show and talk to your mate for the duration, the noise was omnipresent and unavoidable. He is a unique presence in music and his live show is among the most affecting I have experienced. It wasn’t until the lights turned on and Hecker received a deserving standing ovation received that I realised that I was joined by 200 other people in my admiration.