Monday, July 25, 2011

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972

     Tim Hecker, a Canadian based musician, toured with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That's all you need to know. If you remember back to my review of that band's album 'F♯ A♯ ∞', you'll find I was moved greatly, and still return to that magnificent record every few weeks. For me, Hecker's latest lp, released at the start of this year, embraces similar emotions and creates the same barren landscapes, be it with a different, more electronic-based sound that I both admire and adore. 'Ravedeath, 1972' is the ambient drone of a post-apocalyptic world. It's the overpowering silence and distorted emptiness of a land void of human touch. Hazy mirages flit back and forth through the unswept clouds of dust and dirtiness that clog the air. Breath and bodies gone, the city is cold. This soundtrack follows your wandering, directionless footsteps like death stalking the old. Far from being inhuman though, it lets you wander. Sympathy from death for the last soul standing, teary eyes bearing witness to the cleansing of Earth, and the fall of all mankind.
     Remnants of human interaction are here, from the piano to the guitar, but these sounds have run ragged, without structure or leadership. The noises have sprawled into a beautifully chaotic mess as our firm grasp on music loosens. Sound itself has evolved and taken over, flying high above the crumbled sin of man, the embodiment of feeling fleeing a futile planet. In contrast with 'F♯ A♯ ∞', you're alone. There is no-one to argue your fate and no arms to hug you close. Split into a more manageable twelve tracks, you soon lose all sense and despair begins to merge with despair. Throwing track-names aside, nothing matters while you listen through these fifty minutes. The sun is a murky brown, flickering and twisting in pain. It kept our world living, and as it watches life destroyed, it lets out a cry like nothing heard before. Every child shouts for their mother and every animal whines. Tsunamis of sand crash into buildings, but the din is muffled by your unheeding ears. Despite all this, Hecker manages to retain a serenity that broods life's mysteries.
     Melodies play second fiddle to texture and instruments are used expertly well. A solemnity ensues from the pipe organ on the rhythm-less opener 'The Piano Drop', and 'Analog Paralysis, 1978' amplifies the album's feeling of location. As sounds bounce off walls and the sonic image glitches, Hecker's work sounds decidedly progressive, especially when compared to his earlier work. That's the only real difference between his past albums and this though, because Hecker's changes from record to record are very subtle. That being said, every release from him has been of a standard head and shoulders above many modern post-rockers, and this album is no different. One of the qualms I had upon first listen however, was the length of some of the songs. I think the two tracks mentioned above could have been extended a little, to expand on that vast feeling of being forgotten, but the three epics here definitely make up for that. 'In The Fog' and 'In The Air' both have three acts, if you will, with 'Hatred Of Music' split into two sections.
     Overall then, this is a sonic path you can't stray from. There is nothing backwards, but there is nothing forwards either. Yet a surreal inkling of hope powers your tired legs to move and your broken heart to beat. This record is a thing of unimaginable beauty. It is the end of everything, but an end that reveals more than you can every hope to learn. An epiphany through sound as you wander. Like Noah astride the flood, the world is cleansed and you're chosen to witness it's dying breath. Your entire being is heightened through 'Ravedeath, 1972', which should be reason enough for you to lend it your attention. Like 'F♯ A♯ ∞', this is an epitaph of how sound can evoke the deepest emotion.

'The Piano Drop'