Hecker Acid in the Style of David Tudor

[Editions Mego; 2009]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: acid in the style of David Tudor
Others: Ryoji Ikeda, Nobukazu Takemura, David Tudor, Kevin Drumm

It's been six years since Florian Hecker's epic yet highly difficult Sun Pandämonium. I gave the album a 4.5 out of 5 in [my review->http://www.tinymixtapes.com/Hecker], saying it was like "viewing sound from different angles." Pitchfork gave it an 8.7, insisting that "the listening experience will do nothing if not reduce you to puddling drool at the end." Dusted said, rather bluntly, "Hecker's honed fireworks won me over." And then there was Stylus, who gave Sun Pandämonium an F grade and provided a succinct encapsulation of the knee-jerk reactions one would expect from an album as twisted as this: "The album gets very boring, very quick."

Extreme sounds garner extreme reactions, and (thankfully) things only get more challenging with Acid in the Style of David Tudor. Here, the Vienna-based artist further dodges the predictable and tumbles into territories ignored even in experimental circles. It's nearly 52 minutes of some of the most uncompromising explorations into sound materiality, a nonlinear donation that could just as easily be confused with chaos if you ignore the inherent limitations of his old-school instruments (a Buchla modular synth patched into a manipulated Comdyna analog computer). The album is "chaotic," yes, but it's chaotic within a very specific environment.

As the title might imply, this isn't an excursion into additive aesthetics. Rave music isn't added to modernism; modernism isn't added to rave. This is a decidedly forced confrontation of musics, one in which the signifiers of movement in rave (the bass, for example) are enmeshed with the indeterminacy of David Tudor. The result is suffocating: it yelps, it churns, it cycles, it strays. It completely shrugs off narratives and immerses itself in a world in which permutations are infinite and sensory perceptions remain rapturously attentive.

Six of the tracks, all titled "Acid in the Style of David Tudor," emphasize the music's randomness and sonic depth. These tracks are highly animated, twisting and turning yet hitting with a precision rarely found in stern-browed compositions. As soon as Hecker stumbles onto a pattern that would, in normal aesthetics, be repeated in order to create some sense of teleological structure (note: it gets close in track 7), the music shifts into attack mode, charging the listener with another exposition of noise through an automated sonic probe-head. Looking for patterns or "meaning" is pointless when the music continually sweeps you along and gestures toward ever-shifting swathes of sound.

These main compositions are broken up with three tracks titled "ASA," each of which are lodged in the upper registers throughout their three-minute lengths. The frequencies are painful at high volume, but their simplicity is deceptively captivating; I can't bring myself to turn down the volume, despite my ears feeling like they are being violently pricked with needles. Without the frantic pace of the "Acid" tracks, these highly-panned compositions, as piercing as they are, serve to cleanse the sonic palate. They're intended as formal breaks, perhaps the most overt extension of Hecker's aesthetic sensibility. It all culminates into Hecker's final aesthetic demand, "Ten," an understated yet dazzling display of perceptual depth.

As suggested in the 12-page liner notes by Robin Mackay (founding editor of philosophical journal Collapse), Acid in the Style of David Tudor exemplifies the "fact that image and meaning are produced through the conflict and synthesis of real material forces." The essay serves as a reminder, not only of the sound's semiological limitations, but of the sound's materiality, of the disjunction between the representational "of" (this sound is of guitars) and the genetic "of" (this sound is of physical causality, of mathematics): "What is a sound 'of'? What is a sound?" This is beyond trying to read Acid in the Style of David Tudor "correctly," as if it were some trite musical parable or esoteric metaphor; it's about coming to terms with the very genetics of sound and with it the historical baggage and contextual workings that will once again evoke anything but indifference.

1. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
2. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
3. ASA 1
4. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
5. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
6. ASA 2
7. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
8. ASA 3
9. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
10. Ten


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.