Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
What does one say about a new album from Tim Hecker? How do you assess another disc of diaphanous drones and waxing and waning slabs of sound from the Montreal-based musician in a standard music-review format? If you’re already on board with the often gorgeous shimmering tones of Hecker’s recent work, you’ve probably already nabbed it. If you’re indifferent or unconvinced, do you really need a lapel-grabbing appeal that such an evanescent musical presence is somehow urgent and key for your collection? Will context and history, such as the information that the album was recorded in an Icelandic church using a pipe organ as the main sound source, or the fact that Ravedeath is his third album for revered indie/ambient label Kranky, provide necessary illumination and interest? And necessary for what?
Description? Yes, description. The tremolo-ed layers of sound that overlap to create opener “The Piano Drop” have something of the effect of an opening fanfare, but they soon subsume themselves to the crepuscular tones of that organ, relatively unfiltered, that underpin the three-part “In the Fog.” Ghostly guitar and keyboard phantoms waft in and out as the slightly manipulated organ comes to the fore and subsides and shifts over the course of the mini-suite. There’s no shortage of melody here, although it often operates at the faintest possible levels, as on the barely there “No Drums.” The two-part “Hatred of Music” even builds up chord progressions from more textured, fuzzier drones, surrounded by the distant sound of heavily echoed piano. The album’s monochromatic sepia mist is so pervasive at that point that the sounds of fingers scraping on fretted guitar strings that appear as a sort of hook during “Analog Paralysis, 1978” count as a galvanic moment.
Which is not to say that this music otherwise sounds inhuman somehow (though “otherworldly” often fits). The sound of the organ and any stray background info about its recording setting may lend Ravedeath a “spiritual” tint, but such a superficial gloss is outdone by the obvious reverence for this mysterious business of finding beauty in semi-random sound with which Hecker infuses this music, most especially the final mini-suite “In the Air.” So what to say? This is not music that demands your attention, or even commands it, really. But if you give it, you may find yourself richly rewarded.