Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker — Ravedeath, 1972

Kranky, 2011

You can’t talk about this album without talking about its connection to place. Recorded in the Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík, or, the Free Church in Reykjavik, Ravedeath, 1972 is a kind of hybrid of in-studio recording and live improvisation. The church’s pipe organ is the star of the show here, but it’s been distorted so as to reflect that characteristic angularity and iciness of the Reykjavik setting. Waves of digital noise and ambient crunch are constantly disrupting live instrumentation; Hecker mounts a violent attack on the conventional prettiness of his Harmony in Ultraviolet record with an album that has more to do with the aggressive dismantling of sound than with what we tend to think of as “composition.” Things aren’t being put in order as much as being pulled apart. All the ambient and post-classical composers seem to want to go to Iceland to record their music these days, probably because there’s some prevailing idea of Iceland as this pristine, icy kingdom in the North. With Ravedeath as a monument to a dark, dirty Icelandic ethos, Tim Hecker tells those composers to fuck off.

RIYD: Ben Frost, Oneohtrix Point Never, My Bloody Valentine, Iceland, organ, distortion, ambient, shoegaze, electronic experimental sound

BEST:  The Piano Drop, In the Fog I-III, In the Air I-III


1. The Piano Drop [2:54] — A reference to the cover image of MIT students pushing a piano off of Baker House dorm in 1972. Wavering, magisterial noise.

2. In the Fog I [4:52] — Rippling ambient fog. Recursive noise.

3. In the Fog II [6:01] — Blurs the line between organic and processed sound. So goddamn beautiful.

4. In the Fog III [5:01] — The most distorted of the three “In the Fog” movements, and the most mysterious.

5. No Drums [3:24] — Quiet, subdued sound.

6. Hatred of Music I [6:11] — Organ shines through on one of the album’s more epic tracks.

7. Hatred of Music II [4:22] — Like track 6 but washed-out, put through the dryer a few times.

8. Analog Paralysis, 1978 [3:52] — Slow, dark sustain.

9. Studio Suicide, 1980 [3:25] — Ultrasweet, ultrarich sound. One of the more acoustic, unaltered tracks here.

10. In the Air I [4:12] — Breathy, translucent ambient composition.

11. In the Air II [4:08] — Static only makes the porousness more intense.

12. In the Air III [4:02] — Something aerodynamic about this one. Stripped of the static, but still just as porous and beautiful.

Will Gottsegen