Weirdo Canook Hides in a Church, Spits Out Intimidating Ambience

Tim Hecker
Ravedeath, 1972
Kranky

Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 is supposed to be a rumination on the digital music era and a self-declared bit of “secular musical transcendentalism” (whatever that means). Somehow, this translates to tracks that consist primarily of heavily altered recordings of the songwriter playing pipe organ over one day in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s not exactly the party album of the year, but thankfully, the Montreal native manages to transcend the novelty (or schtick) of Ravedeath’s backstory by imbuing the album with raw musicality.

On “The Piano Drop,” organ tones distort into dense waves of static. At the track’s climax, Hecker tames and sculpts the chaos into vast, melancholic swaths of noise that might sound at home on a Sunn O))) record.

The sense of tension is matched on similarly dark “Hatred of Music.” Though not as immediately aggressive as the record’s opener, the two-part suite contains the sort of dramatic, menacing sheets of sound that have become Hecker’s trademark.

But Ravedeath truly shines when Hecker abandons ear-splitting violence for poignant contemplation. On the outstanding “In the Air I,” Hecker’s pipe organ drones have an orchestral quality, with wavering high notes dancing above clean bass.
The result evokes the sort of massive, frigid beauty one would expect of the album’s birth country.

Between the backstory and the tendencies toward drone and ambience, Ravedeath, 1972 is nothing if not intimidating.
But Tim Hecker’s ear for texture, as well as his ability to wield droning sonics with a keen sense of musicianship and composition, validates his effortless command over the mystifying genre. (7/10)

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