It is still relatively rare for live shows in Tokyo, particularly from electronic acts, to sell out ahead of time, so for Tim Hecker's concert to have done so shows the level of anticipation that greeted Montreal-based composer. The location was the search engine-defying WWW, a former arthouse theatre in Shibuya. It's one of the city's most underrated venues, and one of the few in Tokyo with a Funktion-One soundsystem.
In fact, WWW has one of the best rigs in a country already renowned for technological excellence, and this became clear as soon as Hecker began, with the sound immediately penetrating every corner of the room. Waves of noise oscillated between gentle currents, invitingly lapping at your feet, while turbulent whirlpools of noise threatened to pull you under. The level of tension ebbed and flowed with an apparent irregularity—sometimes stretched well past expected points of release, at other times dissipating prematurely. The lack of any obvious structure caused the listener to focus on individual sounds, and had an almost synesthetic effect.
It helped that WWW was pitch black throughout, with only minimal stage lighting to confirm Hecker's presence. Many people in the audience had their eyes closed regardless. Overall, the collective mood was one of undivided attention, sometimes approaching meditative levels of concentration. It was the kind of atmosphere that made it feel like sacrilege to check one's phone. With no visual or external distractions and Hecker's set itself so structurally perplexing, time was the next thing to disappear. Hecker played for around 60 minutes, but I doubt many people in the audience could have guessed that at the time. At times I found the set laborious, disconcerting and even frustrating, but at the same time it was hugely rewarding and worthwhile.