Artist: Tim Hecker
Album: Dropped Pianos
The newest release from ambient electronic artist Tim Hecker is in fact work he made in preparation for his last album Ravedeath, 1972. Recorded in 2010, Dropped Pianos is made up of “sketch pieces” and was recently released on the Kranky label.
In contrast to the album the songs were made in preparation for, Dropped Pianos is not an electronic album and is driven instead by piano chords and ambient drones. The songs are deeply atmospheric, minimal piano notes highlight a melancholy that runs throughout the album. The “sketches” could be the soundtrack to a silent movie, or a tragic documentary about the fragility of life. And this isn’t extremely surprising considering how the album these songs were prep for, is a haunting, organ driven collection of songs called names like ‘Studio Suicide, 1980’ and ‘Hatred of Music I-II’.
Knowing that the Montreal based artist produced this work as a lead up to another album is interesting and insightful, but the work does stand alone as beautiful soundscapes in their own right. And despite their melancholic feel, they also express beauty in a way only very minimal soundscapes can.
The album opens with a hopeful sounding sketch, the piano sounds build up and up in a gorgeous flow, before dropping into a continuous flat that runs into the sad opening chords of ‘Sketch 2’. The third track is a lighter, shorter, tinkering piece, and knowing that Hecker made the work on a pipe organ in a church in Iceland begins to makes so much sense by now. You can almost hear the landscape coming through in the notes, the slow progressions and ambience in the pieces reflecting the vast open landscapes and slow pace of life in the rural areas out there.
‘Sketch 4’ ends with the only obvious reverb in the whole album which highlights again how different this work is from his last album. Sketches 5 and 8 are filled with worry and depression where as 6 and 7 are more inquisitive sounding soundscapes. The ups and downs of each track melt together to form a truly unique ambient album. The final track on Dropped Pianos, ‘Sketch 9’ is built on top of fuzzy white noise, and includes more distinctive organ sounds. In true minimal style, there is no grand finish, just a few chords and a fade out, placing you slowly but surely back into the real world.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.