William_basinski_and_janek_schaefer On_reflection

William Basinski & Janek Schaefer - “ . . . on reflection ”


William Basinski delivers another tranquil album

I’ve been a fan of Basinski for a long time, in my mind he’s up there with other ambient greats like Brian Eno. He strikes a wonderful balance between nostalgia for some place I’ve never been and the acceptance of where I am right now. When listening to his work I never find myself drifting off to think about other things, I merely exist in the scape he creates. Use of found sound recordings like crowd walla in a street overlayed with piano, gentle synths, and vibraphone draws me in and lets me enter his sonic world.

Many of us know Basinski from he Disintegration Loops album released 20 years ago now. It’s an iconic piece of ambient music that consists of tape loops being allowed to distort and fall apart as they go round and round on a tape machine. Basinski is heavily influenced by 20th century minimalists like Steve Reich and has a music degree from the University of North Texas where he studied jazz saxophone. He’s led a pretty interesting musical life, once opening for David Bowie with The Rockats. You might expect this new album of his to feature heavy wind instruments with that sort of background but the only wind instruments I heard are bird calls.

… on reflection smoothly leads us between tracks, similar palettes of sounds can be found everywhere and create a sense of timelessness. That sense of timelessness is something I actively seek out in the ambient music I enjoy. Something about this album in particular that stuck out to me was the implied meter and the way that he plays with it. There are not strong beats where I can definitively say “this is bar 47,” but there is a pacing to it that feels distinctly sequenced and evenly paced. While the front of the album is very piano heavy it transforms into a thick soundscape of synths that sound like they were recorded onto tape and very nicely overdriven to thicken up the sound and reverb. A hint of time-stretching in there too. After we make the detour into synthland we eventually return to the found sound and piano. We return home from a wonderful journey to the sounds of birds and piano, a light sniffle or maybe jacket movement on a cold winter morning in the fifth track sends us off.

If you’re a fan of ambient music that masterfully mixes synthetic sounds, close recordings of instruments, and recordings of the city, you should definitely give this one a listen.