Perhaps what’s most surprising about Instrumental Tourist, the new collaborative record from electronic luminaries Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), is how unsurprising it sounds. For these two musicians, both of whom have made careers out of pushing the envelope, here they seem content to let their established strengths play off one another.
Still, it’s often thrilling. Hecker’s trademark icy, textural atmospherics prove a dangerous match for Lopatin’s glitchy, tech-addled brainworms. Many of these tunes leave impressions as powerful as the strongest moments on either artist’s best albums. (Hecker’s contributions here skew toward the abrasive stop-start of his earlier work, while Lopatin continues to explore a bloody-toothed, anti-nostalgic brand of synthscape.) Though certain songs feel structurally aimless, the material is never less than intriguing.
Hecker and Lopatin are indeed tourists, capturing snapshots of the world around them as it reveals itself through sound. As travel photos are only as good as the eyes behind the camera, so does this kind of work require a special pair of ears. Hecker and Lopatin continue to allow sound to dictate its own path, to flow freely, even as they corral it into coherence. This is the basic concept at the heart of experimental music; few modern artists seem as in tune with the idea as these two. Certainly, few are able to present it so compellingly.
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