Desert Island Discs #5: Tim Hecker – The Piano Drop


Unlike many of my contemporaries I really haven’t been in Ambient for very long; actually when Ravedeath, 1972 came out in 2011 I was still treading water greatly, still trying to find my way into the genre and my place within it. In many ways this record became a significant motivator and pushed me over the edge (as I wrote in my Albums of the Decade piece), and although I’ve come to love all of Hecker’s works and found power in many other single pieces, it’s “The Piano Drop” that haunts me the most, the tipping point of my musical journey and the precipice of entry into the godly Ravedeath. 

An immediate rush into growling black processing announces our beginning, the foggy remembrance of peering over the edge moments before descent as signalled by the onlapping waves of suffocating noise that overwhelm the senses: instantly we tense, muscles clamping and eyes misting in fear, sounds muting to a dull throb as we alarmingly detune from the world. This vertiginous instant forces time to a grinding crawl before we topple over uncontrollably into the void, a spinning and twisting journey through the air, revolutions smeared into oscillating electronic tones, synths surging with rotational velocity and obliterating all sense of our surroundings in axial confusion. Within it all is a fleeting sense of resignation and melancholia, a sense of passing sadness acceptant of its fate in the flashing moments before impact.

And then it strikes, a thick and calamitously jarring moment of raw black noise at its conclusion, the music already dying away in the distance as it hits, adhering us to the floor in its twisted and unsympathetic energy.

There’s something very kaleidoscopic about this piece, something in its molten rhythms that sends the mind reeling in dizzying flurries of melancholic and bleak visions, distorted through the lens of fear. It’s a literal diving board into the apocalyptic and dystopic machinations of the record to follow, one that sees the spiralling collapse of the value of music and documents its battle, but it also represents to me the future of my own music listening, of going off the deep end and disappearing into the uncharted waters of Ambient beyond and changing my perceptions irrevocably. There are many notable Hecker pieces, but this is the only one that ever changed my life.