Published Oct 23, 2011As a part of Toronto's sixth annual X Avant Festival, Montreal-based ambient producer/sound designer Tim Hecker headlined a three-act show at St. George the Martyr Church in downtown Toronto. The concert was organized by the Music Gallery, a creative collective of Toronto-based musicians and music lovers who are the minds behind the experimental sounds of X Avant.
Opening the show was Global Cities Ensemble, whose beat-driven blend of electronic and instrument-based hip-hop demonstrated experimentalism in a genre that is often under-explored in Toronto.
Holding down the second performance slot was Berlin's Oval, who made his first Toronto appearance in 15 years. The crisp punches of digital sound from Oval's equipment carried through his hour-long set, driven by organic drum sounds that would be buried under layers upon layers of frequency-bending sounds until fizzling out into soundscapes that exhibited huge dynamic and textural ranges.
Finally, it was Tim Hecker's turn to reveal his sonic ambitions. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the audience caught a glimpse of the church's pipe organ hooked into various electronics before Hecker took a seat in front of the instrument and all lights went dark. There are few musicians whose music is as well suited to a church organ as Hecker's, something he proved by performing the majority of his Polaris Music Prize long-listed album Ravedeath, 1972 on the normally god-praising instrument at soul-shaking volumes. And the low-end drive of the organ pedals was a force to be reckoned with, shaking the foundations of the church with clatters of vibrations from loose materials.
While fans of Hecker were undoubtedly pleased with his rather aggressive organ tones, the restless first-time listener may have found his set almost too uniform, as all tracks blended into one another. However, X Avant's goals are hardly centred on the impatient demographic.