Music For Writers: Tim Hecker (II)

If Dropped Pianos is Tim Hecker’s yin album,  perhaps Ravedeath, 1972 is the yang. That may be simplistic theory but it feels apt.

Managing to remain tonally sparse and minimalistic, the eleven compositions on his sixth album rise to place beyond mere musical sketchbook. While Tim Hecker’s sound stays indelibly tethered to his gorgeous sense of melody, a fetish for discordant progression and a mastery of piano, on Ravedeath, 1972 he goes for greater conceptual flair and a deeper explorations of the artist’s core themes of bleakness and sorrow. This may pin the album down as “depressing” but all one needs to listen to is the coda track, “In The Air III” to know that is far too easy. On this record, Hecker evokes a genuine sense of solitude, a far flung idea in a distracted, multi-media universe.

Picture a human alone at the piano. Imagine that human on an island. Feel that island on the edge of an oblivion. You’ve only now touched the transcendence offered on Ravedeath, 1972.

Recorded in Frikirkjan Church in Reykjavik, Iceland (while written both in Montreal, Quebec and Banff, BC) the wildly popular production location offers more than just name recognition. The funeral motif provides a tangible influence on the album’s overall feel. The opening song, “The Piano Drop” with its shivering synthesizer sequences and dreamy tempo evokes still shots of an otherworldly, treeless expanses of black sand and volcanic landscapes.

Picture a man laying under the Auroras. Touch twelve inches of white snow that is still pure. Envision his fixed gaze looking up. Feel his breath stolen away.

Hecker breaks his songs into sequences. The three parts of “In The Fog” are constructed around a laconic, ambient tone, shot through in spaces with shrill guitars which are then calmed by sublime piano melodies; on “Hatred of Music” Hecker goes a little colder with sparse key drops and a satisfyingly awkward crescendo in the midst; on the closing triptych, his “Into The Air” sequence, an elevated feeling of moving through atmosphere all but courses through the body.

Hecker’s objective going into Ravedeath, 1972 was to run a fine line between live/studio album. He wanted to seize on music that projected boldness and vulnerability in the same moment. He sought an album of anti-music. In the most curious ways, he achieved those lofty goals.

I explore Tim Hecker when I am exploring my story. If I feel the need to be swept up, to free my mind, to throw free ideas on paper then Ravedeath, 1972 in all its dichotomy is a necessary tool.

Here is a link to Ravedeath, 1972 in its entirety on YouTube.