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BASINSKI, WILLIAM - A Shadow in Time

Format: CD
Label & Cat.Number: 2062 - 2062.1701
Release Year: 2017
Note: two long new pieces, the title track is dedicated to DAVID ROBERT JONES (aka DAVID BOWIE), the pieces have been created with synths, tenor saxophone, tape loops and electronics => very rich & multi-layered, subharmonic ambient drones and waves full of ringing overtunes, surely among his best material! The CD version has an extented mix (6 min. longer) of the title track
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €14.00

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"World-renowned as one of experimental music's most vital and impressionistic composers of the past few decades, William Basinski’s tape loop works have been especially influential, particularly on the historic series, The Disintegration Loops, where distorted, orchestral tape samples burrow deep into the listener's psyche through meditative repetition. On his new album, A Shadow In Time, Basinski plunges deeper than ever for the plaintive, solitary eulogy to David Bowie, aptly titled “For David Robert Jones.” Conversely, the title track, “A Shadow In Time,” is a subtle, celestial escalation of melody and drone. The result is one of the most truly transcendent pieces of music he has ever committed to – or wrung from – tape." [press release]

"Basinski's new album A Shadow in Time contains some of his strongest work since The Disintegration Loops introduced him to the world at large.

In the fifteen years since William Basinski released the debut installment of his Disintegration Loops series he has been rapidly, and rightly, lionized. But for two decades prior to that, he was just another eccentric artist in New York, a tinkerer who built his own instruments, ran a venue and experimented insatiably with tape loops. He would tune in to the easy listening piped out by CBS and record snippets of it, creating a massive archive of schmaltz that, through the alchemy of sampling, could be transfigured into something infinitely more haunting. “I would set up loops, get them going, put on the tape recorder and let it go for the length of the cassette because if it was going, it captured this eternal moment,” he told The Quietus in 2012. That eternal-moment is quintessential Basinski; his work has been uniquely fixated on time and loss, his compositions heaving with longing, melancholy and a sense of impenetrable mystery.

At its best, Basinski’s music inspires the sort of rapturous testimony usually reserved for peak experiences, cult leaders and the dead. When it’s not working as well, it can feel not unlike so-called “ruin porn” or the photography of Edward Burtynsky: lovely aestheticizations of late-capitalist collapse that comfort more than they confront. Thankfully, his new album A Shadow in Time contains some of his strongest work since The Disintegration Loops introduced the world to the artist.

The two pieces on A Shadow in Time offer contrasting entry points into his work. The title track is a richly layered composition for the archaic Voyetra 8 synthesizer that was a year in the making and showcases Basinski at the height of his compositional powers. David Bowie tribute “For David Robert Jones,” on the other hand, is an off-the-cuff tape loop piece commissioned by LA’s Volume gallery in the weeks after the artist’s death. Built with re-purposed tape fragments that had been chewed up by a former roommate's cat (“this big, fat motherfucker,” he called it) “For David” exemplifies the entropic decay he’s most known for while adding specific, Bowie-riffing details.

As with all Basinski’s work, there’s a tantalizing juxtaposition between chance and intention (the Voyetra 8 wasn’t even guaranteed to turn on, and when it did, it “was already doing some weird shit so we used it and more”). But on “A Shadow in Time” this tension plays more of a supporting role than a lead. The piece opens with a slow-motion cascade of shimmering high harmonies and murky, shifting lower tones. In its austere beauty, it calls to mind Pauline Oliveros’ landmark Deep Listening, but with an added dash of dread. Clocking in at just shy of 23 minutes, “Shadow” spends its first half stretching towards infinity and its second collapsing on itself.

Around the seven minute mark (amazingly it only feels like three), the piece begins to hollow out. Gradually those glassy high notes drift away like the dust tail of a comet, and tape hiss overtakes the piece. The sense of deterioration is palpable, made more dramatic by distant synth moans and weird bursts of chirping noise that poke through just as “Shadow” drifts into silence. It’s the kind of ending that makes one feel less like a listener and more like a witness.

In the wake of the A-side’s descent, “For David Robert Jones” feels like a cool down for the audience and a victory lap for Basinski. An orchestral clip that could easily be a Disintegration Loops outtake opens, circling around itself and never quite resolving. We’re on more familiar footing here, and the emotional tenor of the the piece, though engaging, is less arrestingly in-your-face than “Shadow.” Six minutes in, a gnarled saxophone juts through rudely, throwing the chilled out transcendence pleasingly off balance. A nod to Bowie’s own saxophone honking on “Subterraneans,” it’s an amusingly punk bit of sabotage, but it fails to develop into something more. Over fourteen more minutes the tension dissipates and “For David” runs out of steam.

Discussing The Disintegration Loops in 2012, Basinski told the Quietus “Over the period of the hour, that melody just decayed right in front of my ears… and eyes… I remember thinking, 'This is not about you.’” While this sense of riveting discovery isn’t fully achieved on “For David,” the album nonetheless offers a stunning journey into a vast, ink-black void." [Pitchfork]