#2 Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972
not a single fuck was given that day
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" writes Yeats in his famous poem The Second Coming. Throughout the poem he uses the language and imagery of apocalypse and revelation to indicate humanity spiraling towards a moment of terrible change, and in its wild last line ("...what rough beast, its hour come round at last/ slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?") there is palpable horror at the unknown future that lurks around the corner. It's no stretch to read Tim Hecker's Ravedeath 1972 as musically analogous to Yeats's poem.
Ravedeath 1972's cover art depicts a group of lads about to drop a piano off a tall building as part of a student ritual carried out in MIT university. It's a cunning image as it is impossible to look at it without imagining the ferocious sound it implies. We are spectators at the scene of the instrument's imminent and violent death. And with its howling and droning treatments of pipe organ music, Ravedeath 1972 seems to invite us to spectate at a death ritual and funeral service that might be for music itself, but which, because it is so powerfully metaphorical, should not be limited to just being about music or indeed 'the LP' as plenty of critics have speculated. Like Yeats' poem, Ravedeath 1972 could be about the fear engendered in any violent change or transition.
A key aspect of Ravedeath 1972's dreadful power to fascinate is how there something not whole about it. Things are not just falling apart, they have been corroded too. The music is loud and visceral but gibbering ghosts roam over it in the form of that stereoscopic flickering that Hecker does so well. It must be noted here too that there is no percussion on the album; by having a piece called 'no drum', Hecker seems to want us to notice this. Are some of these tracks former rave songs, moaning in a death-trance after having their percussion tortuously removed? Interestingly, Leyland Kirby has released a series of singles, close in their sound and themes to Ravedeath 1972, called (if you can believe it) 'The Death of Rave'. 'The Piano Drop' in particular sounds related to Kirby's explorations - another one of dance music's ghosts.
Sitting at the heart of Ravedeath 1972 is the music of an organ playing inside an Icelandic church. Over the course of the album Hecker does many unnatural things to this organ yet he never lets us lose our sense of it entirely. Even as the accumulating layers of its collapsing parts pile on top of each other, passages of beauty remain. When I sense the organ communicating to me from different distances within Ravedeath 1972's slow chaos, I am hit with the full complexity of Hecker's extraordinary achievement. He gives us a final glimpse of beauty and life even as we spiral slowly into Yeats' "widening gyre" of uncertainty, violence and fear.
MP3: Tim Hecker-The Piano Drop