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Tim Hecker: Ravedeath 1972 early contender for album of the year?
on 16 February 2011
Tim Hecker has never come across as a provocative man, but his new album title, cover art, and song titles makes it difficult not to try to read into any possible subtexts on his new album 'Ravedeath, 1972'. Personally, I think Hecker is just being mischievous. i don't think the album title has anything to do with the death of Rave, but perhaps a justification for its existence. The same applies to songs called 'Hatred of music', there is clearly no evidence of this on this wonderful album.
Ben Frost, who crafted the monumental 'By the Throat' album 2 years ago, lends his skills to this album. Hecker recorded the album in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Frost now lives, over a few days of improvisation.
Upon pressing play, you soon realise that Ravedeath, 1972 is one aggressive, single-minded record. 'Piano drop' introduces you to the sound of Tim Hecker, coming from nowhere and dropping a huge slab of stuttering noise and bass. The albums highlights are 2 sets of triptych's, 'In the Fog I/II/III', 'In the Air I/II/III' and a diptych, 'Hatred of Music I and II'. 'In the fog' starts with jagged stabs of piano in what feels like a cavernous lump of dense and fluid space, your mind wanders as to the possibilities within this mass of space. 'In the fog II' gives way to a incessant pipe organ loop with shimmering washes of digital noise, if i heard this track at a rave i 'd be very happy! 'In the fog III' loosens up before huge shards of digital noise eat away at your ears, not as painful as it sounds! And just like a fog, it all eventually disappears, leaving behind a tranquil wash of music which ends the song, a beautiful end to a cracking triptych. 'Hatred of Music' is more contemplative, similar to the best of his previous album 'Harmony in Ultraviolet', ice-cold slices of continuous digital noise reverberate around you.
'Analog Paralysis' and 'Studio Suicide' follow, but are disappointments. They lack the flair of the previous tracks and ones to come. The best is left till last. 'In the Air I/II/III' brings Hecker back to prominence, a deft, more measured piece, starting and ending in a piano movement (which could have been played by Ben Frost). 'In the Air II' scorches everything in its path, waves upon waves of terrifying distortion, but the piano returns and you can still hear the winds of noise which eventually dissipates leaving the piano to complete the final movement.
Is it too crass to call his music Cathedral electronic music? Probably, but there is a devotional feel to his music on this album, and not just because of the church organ. This is Heckers most mature album, the last few albums were very much singular visions but this album seems to have more purpose and an introspection lacking in the last few releases. Like most albums within this genre of music, it sets the scene for your imagination to run away with you. Unless you have heard any of Heckers music before, his albums take time to digest, they certainly need a few plays to draw you into his world. Ravedeath, 1972 doesn't seem to need it, it has an immediacy and an innocence which is refreshing, similar to still my favourite Hecker album Radio Amor.
The use of the church organ is a real treat, especially since i normally cannot stand the sound of a church organ, i don't know why but i've never liked it! There is a warmth to the organ sound even though it has been heavily manipulated, it's inviting and non-judgemental. Ravedeath, 1972 is a very aggressive and noisy album, but ironically it sounds like the start of the middling years of Hecker output, and this is no insult. There is an intelligence, a knowledge and craft on this album which stand's Hecker apart from most musicians. Hecker says he makes music to preserve his sanity, something i can relate to when i'm painting. Previous albums involved a personal catharthis, Ravedeath, 1972 embodies a sense of clarity and liberation, isn't that the purpose of rave?