Album Review: Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)

When most people think of the word “ambient,” they associate it with something unobtrusive and lulling. Since things like background noise and subtle lighting come to mind at sight of the word, it’s not very surprising that ambient music is not at the forefront of popularity among the various genres, and in many cases, the overall assumption of this type of music is dead on. When restaurants and spas play it in order to relax patrons, it can be assumed the intention is to calm and not invoke thought, so boring soundscapes are moved through the speakers. One can find a lot of ambient out there that is repetitive and base, and it’s meant to be kept at a distance. It’s there because silence is incredibly loud; it’s nothing but white noise. Tim Hecker, however, does not create music for spas.

Hecker’s music is meant to hit you like a ton of bricks, and it can certainly catch a listener off guard if he or she is expecting the usual mess of lame synth pads usually found on ambient compilation albums. Mr. Hecker is not new to the game; he is beyond Abelton stock instruments, he isn’t generic, and he has mastered the art of sound manipulation. Found noises and various instruments make their way into the mix, but each sound is lovingly destroyed in order to create an environment hard to imagine on our own. The places we are taken evoke emotion, and most times these feelings are not joyous or serene.

Ravedeath, 1972, like the other albums Hecker has released under his birth name, is brooding from start to finish. Listening to the album is comparable to sitting alone in the rain, thinking of days long past. A deep sense of sadness pervades the record, yet this sadness is familiar somehow. It’s a bit like the times you catch a scent for a brief second, and suddenly vague memories come crashing into your being. You can’t exactly place the moments, but you can tell they were important, and now you’re left longing for something you can’t even fully remember. Essentially, Hecker has created music that represents not only that split second of loneliness, but the actual bittersweet times that remain in the haze.

The journey begins with “The Piano Drop,” a track that uses heavily reverbed, gated synths to start hacking away at reality and begin the transport into a dream. About midway through the album, once the foggy “Hatred of Music” trilogy is underway, time seems to have almost halted and the real world has all but disappeared. Hecker’s world has taken over, and it will remain this way until the last notes of the “In the Air” triptych have floated away. Everything contained within is pointed, yet subtly jarring. Noises skip and melodies are staggered, flowing like a cloudy stream with rocks and rapids scattered throughout. The complexity of sound sometimes borders on overwhelming, but it always pulls back at the last second. The air of deconstruction is always present.

As usual, Tim Hecker has dropped an album that does not disappoint. There is more passion in this release than most bands can muster, and it is all shown without lyrics or easy hooks. Emotion creeps up from beginning to end, ultimately creating not just an album, but an entire experience.

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