With titles like »Monotony« or »Anxiety«, »Pulse Depression« or »Sense Supression« does Tim Hecker set mental illnesses to music on his new album or does he merely describe legitimate reactions to the pessimistic present between pandemic, war and recession? As expected, the lyric-free »No Highs« doesn’t provide an answer, but it does provide evidence for both interpretations and finally suggests a synthesis of both views: collective depression as a response to the freshly acquired experience of isolation, of all kinds of fears and hardly any optimistic prospects for the future.
Musically, however, the unease is always just bubbling under the surface, panic is merely hinted at and a nervous mood is created, for example, by arrhythmic Morse codes. Between (and at the same time apart from) ambient, neo-classical, noise and musique concrète, the tracks flow seemingly without fixed compositional patterns or arcs of tension, sometimes here, sometimes there – while simultaneously being too demanding to degenerate into mere background music, only becoming dissonant and noisy during select moments, avoiding familiar structures.
An example of this is the ethereal »Total Garbage« as a sense and sound image of a hauntological present, in which elegiac strings and Colin Stetson’s saxophone swell into an aimless funeral march, where none of the guests seem to know who is to be buried and where the grave is supposed to lie.