For the first decade of his career, the Canadian composer and sound artist Tim Hecker specialized in transmuting digital audio into thick miasmas of sound that combined orchestral richness with the sensory assault of noise music. But after reaching an apotheosis — and his largest audience to date — with his 2011 album "Ravedeath, 1972," he decided to dial things down.

"That's like a life project for me: just to make less," he says, speaking by phone from Montreal. "When every aspect of EDM or pop music is so harmonically saturated now, why — what does that mean? Does that inherently mean it has teeth now? I'm not sure."

Rather than commit to a sonic arms race, Hecker chose restraint. His latest album, "Konoyo," is possibly the most understated thing he has produced to date, and certainly the most unexpected. It's based on recordings he made in Tokyo last year, working with a small group of musicians specializing in gagaku, Japan's ancient court music.