No doubt the sound source has something to do with it: the entire album is based on a live recording made of a church pipe organ in a Reykjavik, and the resulting studio manipulations feel heavily permeated by the scene, reflecting a kind of icy solemnity, the spirituality of winter's solitude. In addition to the album title, a tracklist with phrases like "Hatred of Music," "Studio Suicide 1980" and "Analog Paralysis, 1978" underscores the dark spirits that have been given reign, and the use of specific dates seems like commemorations of singular instances consigned to oblivion.
The conceptual restraint does Hecker well, giving him a rich yet reduced sound palette which will appeal to fans of his earlier work as well as the likes of Fennesz and Oneohtrix Point Never—yet at the same time invoking minimalist/maximalist organ works by Terry Riley and Hermann Nitsch. One of the few traces of Hecker's trademark distortion comes at the opener, where it enters in media res only to be swallowed by an ambient-trance cloud. The title "The Piano Drop" appears to reference the album art, a strange and violent photograph of a crowd, flushed with Jacobin energy, hurling a piano off a roof. The image of a clavier homicide only makes the album title even more cryptic—although apparently it's a mystery even to Hecker himself, who accounted for the phrase by saying he "had no idea how it manifested. Sort of ghostwritten, like fingers on an Ouija board." It's a description that fits the listening experience as well—as if you're receiving transmissions from parts unknown, signals that lure you in only to overwhelm you.
The three-part "In the Fog" shows Hecker at his strongest, deploying electronic sound manipulation in a deft and organic way that parallels the flux of natural phenomena: the shifting clusters of looped samples invoke waterfalls, the movement of wind across a plain, kaleidoscopic patterns of filtered light in a forest. Hecker's compositions often display a kind of nimble density, thick tides of sound that wash over your ears but always manage to ebb away before you drown.
Ravedeath 1972 begins with a piano falling and ends with "In the Air"—another three-parter that winds through disjointed keyboard plonk and heavy drone, ending up in curlicues of pealing bells, tolling for some half-forgotten loss. "In the Air" also suggests that perhaps the doomed piano actually never finally strikes the ground, remaining pitched earthward but suspended in a photographic freeze—with the Iceland wind howling across its strings.