Review: Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

With Ravedeath, 1972, Tim Hecker applies his “trademark” melodic progressions and heaps of studio tampering to a live recording taken in a church in Reykjavik. Pipe organ is the primary sound source, and whilst it fires an organic breath into his traditionally electronic soundworlds, it also leaves a contemplative funeral gloom to lurk within the layers.

Opening piece “The Piano Drop” reminds me slightly of Christian Fennesz’ collaboration with organist Charles Matthews on Amoroso – the organ is permitted to ring out and lap up against the church’s stone walls, but then becomes choked, cut up and distorted, like a weary transmission wavering perilously on the edge of empty electronic static. This is continued throughout the “In the Fog” trilogy, in which gentle breaths of reverb are contorted into mini white noise hurricanes.

The second half of the album begins to peel away the familiarity of the organ – either it ceases to be used or its signature sound is torn out of recognition – and Ravedeath 1972 starts to call upon more ambiguous drones, turning from tangible layers of sound into the vaporous phantom-chords of “Analog Paralysis” and “Studio Suicide”. It is here that the album falls into its most gentle and haunting, creeping between chords of a minor key in a ghostly mourning of music itself.

Apparently Ben Frost pops up on this record, and I presume this is via the soft plink of piano during the album’s final three movements – it’s a nice touch, with the notes forming as watery droplets that sink within the music. Eventually, this “watery” effect takes over the entire soundscape, as it ripples like a quivering and unstable liquid for the album fade-out.

Structurally, it’s immediately identifiable as a Tim Hecker record – a continuous piece of music, too thick and fast-moving to achieve any sense of focus. The listener understands it to be comprised of individual elements without being able to perceive it as anything but a blurry sea of activity, and yet personally, I’ve come to enjoy and experience Tim Hecker albums such as this one by embracing this fact, and permitting the music to wash straight through my dazed head.