For those expecting another bracing, abrasive excursion into the electronic palette of Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country poses some challenges. Usually the sign of a true artist is the willingness to play with formula, risk what has worked, and use prior lessons as jumping off points for new avenues. In Hecker’s case, this means a more subdued, but lush soundscape, and one that incorporates new instruments.
There is a more ambient feel here, and the addition of mellotron and strings gives an evocative feel to tracks like “Pond Life,” “Currents of Electrostasy” and the appropriately titled “Sea of Pulses.” Other tracks, like “Borderlands” and “The Inner Shore,” also hint at a desire to seek new, deeper paths in sound. Hecker seems both aware of the risks he is taking, and at peace with that decision. In fact, there may be more power here in restraint than in some of his more noisy outings. Here, the silence and the echo are just as much a part of the experience as the tones and pulses.
An Imaginary Country is a place, and a record, where the contemplative is as liberating as noise. Tim Hecker’s beautiful meditations are inviting but still retain the edge of a seeker that isn’t quite finished with the trip. Among his many releases, this is one of the most layered, warm and moving.