Thursday, February 10

Record Review: Tim Hecker [Ravedeath, 1972, Kranky]

by Jennifer Graciano

Tim Hecker’s latest album, “Ravedeath, 1972” is for many, one of the most anticipated releases of this year. The Montreal based ambient and electronic musician crafts reputable sounds which have clearly set him apart from most of his colleagues; it’s not hard to make comparisons between greats such as Max Richter, or Fennesz, but I’m not entirely sure if either has as consistent a roster as Hecker. For over ten years he has released critically acclaimed material of powerful ambient works time after time with no sign of slowing down. His 2009 release of “An Imaginary Country” had Hecker present an album that felt as if you were traipsing some unknown land, a soundscape if there ever was one. With “Ravedeath, 1972” a more foreboding and direct approach is taken. Live recordings of a lone pipe organ compiled over the span of a day in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland, give the album an entirely organic feel as sound is constantly shifting on the brink of abrasiveness.

“The Piano Drop” opens up Ravedeath, 1972, a throbbing track that seems to come out of nowhere sets the stage for the album; a melodic tune amidst a distorted bass on loop. “In The Fog I”, “..II,” and “..III” might be some of my favorite Hecker pieces. You can clearly hear the field recordings; the slow chug of the organ at the start of “In The Fog I” sounding a lot like a sputtering old car, can clearly be heard at the end of the third installment of “In The Fog.” The clatter of various background noises quickly enveloped by looped chords alongside a piano and the pipe organ itself. With sharp transitions and a seamless outro to the series, the solidity of Hecker’s work is magnified within these three enthralling pieces.

“No Drums” is mesmerizing with an ethereal ambiance about it, subduing the clatter of the organ to a minimum. No sooner is the songs looped beauty over then “Hatred of Music I” takes over with hardly any warning. As the title suggests, this is not a light listen; a jarring composition with dense echoes and a positively shrill pitch to it. Its counterpart, “Hatred of Music II,” is rich, those willful qualities to the first no longer there as a more chilling and restrained approach is taken. These two tracks are clearly the climax of the album as the pieces that follow are noticeably different in method.

“Analog Paralysis, 1978” isn’t as disarming as the previous tracks, a more active listen with a cascade of noise. “Studio Suicide, 1980” is a slow buildup, an upsurge of sound where one may be inclined to let the mind wander as a more menacing tone takes over.

Another three part series, “In The Air,” closes the album with effortlessness. A relatively simple opening: “In The Air I” eases slowly into what is to be a completely boisterous set of scales. The tracks go in and out and as Hecker holds out on parts to isolate sounds, which are then quickly incorporated into the mass of noise. With some light keys in the background, the piano is reintroduced with full-force; by the end of “In The Air II” and “..III,” it has become the focal point, only to disappear all together as “Ravedeath, 1972” comes to an end.

“Ravedeath, 1972” is a lot more powerful than Hecker’s previous work; hardly anything like “Harmony in Ultraviolet’s” delicate demeanor, and with so much more force than “An Imaginary Country”. “Ravedeath, 1972” may very well be Tim Hecker’s strongest album to date. With such a solid musical career, Hecker has assured the public that he is more than capable of consistently releasing great material. The naturally dense, intricate transitions, and enveloping qualities to Hecker’s music are without a doubt satisfying, and absolutely marvelous. This album is an entirely dynamic work with an emphasis on layers and textures that raises Hecker’s own bar. A must for any fan of experimental or ambient music, “Ravedeath, 1972” is a completely rewarding listen, and a tremendous feat for Tim Hecker. Long time fans of his work will surely be pleased, if not ecstatic, by this release.

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