Tim Hecker's newest ambient drone outing is entitled Ravedeath, 1972. Now Hecker must be a fairly self conscious man, because this is about as far away as you could get from rave music. (If that's why you're here, turn around and close the door behind you). Maybe it's his ode to the shallow and awkward world of raves as he sees them, coming from a background in minimal techno. His records released under his name showcase his innate ability to layer and balance noise and droning walls of sound on top of each other in a monolithic manner. Rich textured waves of sound akin to many drone artists flooded the speakers of his previous albums, and on his 2006 opus of sound, Harmony in Ultraviolet, they were deeply moody and subdued undercurrents of noise that would ebb and wash over the listener, as if being trapped in a deep sea trench. Hecker then retreated back to the noisier elements of his music with the slightly inconsistent An Imaginary Country from 2009. And now we come to Ravedeath, 1972. Were raves even around in 1972?
Hecker recorded Ravedeath in a church, utilizing pipe organs in a way that captures the ambiance and otherworldly atmosphere of an aged cathedral. This creates a sort of atmosphere that pervades the path of modern music and seems to seep through the speakers in conversant and timelessly unsettling crackles. Life and death seem to be subjects Hecker's latest tackles in a very spiritual way, one that plays on the familiarity of our emotions in new and entrancing ways. Ravedeath may feel dim and obscured at times, but when its radiant passages shine through, like billowing light into a frame glass window, it is truly gorgeous.
Many moments on Hecker's newest release seem to be subtly telegraphing the ending of time. The "In the Fog" trilogy, in particular, seems to slow the spinning of the Earth and everything surrounding, as if capturing frames of life snapshot by snapshot. Perhaps it's as if life is flashing before your eyes. "Hatred of Music 1 & 2", both with their upsurging torrential noisescapes, can only be described as utterly beautiful. "Studio Suicide" is achingly tragic, subtly alluding to contemplation of something. This is ambient music that is so well versed in the abstract and the experimental that it seems to borrow the greatest elements from their ideals and warp them into a product that would be relatively easy to listen to, if not for its deep sentimentality.
It has been way too long since an ambient album has given me chills from the sheer grandiosity and magnitude of the notes themselves. Ravedeath, 1972 is an immediately graspable piece of beauty, but one that traverses the depths of sonic trenches and peaks to find its glorious emotions, so that multiple trips back are not only enticing after the first listen, but will only uncover more of the story being told here. It swells and hisses in ways that have rarely - if ever - been so expressive before in the world of drone. At least not since Hecker's Harmony, or even an album like Agaetis Byrjun, has noise been so soothing and meditative, let alone emotive. To say that beautiful noise is an oxymoron would make you look foolish with this in existence.
Hecker admitted that Ravedeath, 1972 is a title with no discernible meaning or purpose. He said that he "had no idea how it manifested. Sort of ghostwritten, like fingers on a Ouija board." The ghastly ambiance of Ravedeath is certainly inexplainable, but once it is experienced, it's hard to forget. Like some story Hecker may or may not have conceived about the album's title, it may not have actually occurred, but it doesn't diminish the haunting vision and gripping ethereal adventure into a world we all may daydream about that is still unlike anything you could ever imagine.