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Improv & Avant-Garde 2011: 10 Favourites

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Improv & Avant-Garde 2011: 10 Favourites
Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
This year's Ravedeath, 1972 was Tim Hecker's sixth official solo album and without a doubt among his most accomplished work to date. Powerful, enigmatic and haunting, it is hard to hear the album without picturing slow-motion Herzog-like scenes of natural disasters, such as the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, where Hecker recorded the central performance that forms the backbone of the album. It is a powerful suite of unsettling ambient drone that consists of layers of dissonant electronics and washes of static intertwined with the deep, resonant sound of an old church organ in an intense, ever-shifting push-pull interplay. Allegedly conceived as a comment on the disposability of music, the titles are tongue-in-cheek wordplays on this topic and the album artwork features an evocative archive image of the M.I.T. piano drop stunt. Hecker has always explored the nexus of the organic and the processed but here he takes this further than before, seamlessly melding electronic and organic sounds and adding multiple layers of processing to both. Later in 2011, Kranky also released Dropped Pianos, a companion album consisting of electronically treated piano and organ sketches that Hecker brought to Reykjavík and improvised with for the final piece. Ravedeath is a superb work that sits comfortably alongside recent classics in the oeuvre such as William Basinski's Disintegration Loops.
Vincent Pollard

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