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William Basinski / Janek Schaefer - . . . On Reflection Music Album Reviews

William Basinski / Janek Schaefer - . . . On Reflection Music Album Reviews
The experimental musicians’ first full-length collaboration gives the impression of life, fertility, and verdancy. It’s one of the most sumptuous works of either artist’s career.

William Basinski will probably be associated with death, decline, and decay for the rest of his life. His breakout series of albums was constructed from fraying tape loops, and most of his music sounds submerged and ancient, as if it’d been bottled from the distant past. You’d imagine his first full-length collaboration with Janek Schaefer, a sound collagist who works with vinyl (and a Guinness Book of Records-certified three-armed turntable), would be a celebration of physical media that show their scars as they age. Yet the strongest impression of . . . on reflection is one of life, fertility, and verdancy. It’s one of the richest and most sumptuously sound-designed works of either’s career, and a highlight in both catalogs.

The two musicians spent eight years raiding their undoubtedly vast archives of piano loops and stitching them into the backbone of the five-track, continuously flowing record. To anyone familiar with either artist’s catalog, it’s shocking how pristine the piano sounds, and we expect that it’ll eventually be submerged in vinyl crackle, tape hiss, and effects. But aside from the occasional burst of dubby echo, the piano remains unblemished. The real story unfolds in the margins: field recordings of birds, machines, vehicles, distant murmurs of crowds, shouts of children, a spooky little metallic shimmer every now and then.

If Basinski hadn’t already called an album The River, it would’ve been an apt title for this one. The piano seems to cut through the landscape, revealing layers of history previously unseen; it suggests a time-lapse of a canyon being created, or of a civilization growing along the banks of a river. A lot of the best recent ambient albums make heavy use of field recordings, often to create a sense of relatable, everyday domesticity or reflect the artist’s specific memories. . . . on reflection thinks on a bigger scale; it seems like it’s about everything.

Because we’re really just hearing two things here, piano and field recordings, it’s easy at first to overlook how complex this music is. The piano loop sounds stagnant at first, and it might take a few listens to notice how many different little vamps and motifs have been Frankensteined together. If you’re listening to . . . on reflection outside, letting the sounds of your own environment blend with the music, you might not process or even notice how much is going on in the back of the mix until you give it a focused listen in a quiet place. That’s not to say there’s one “correct” way to listen to it. It works well as an “experiential filter,” as a past review described Basinski’s music, or you can really focus on it and track its movements as a piece.

. . . on reflection has an interesting structure. Though it’s really one piece, it’s split into five numbered tracks; the two tracks that bookend either side of the record are based on piano, but in “. . . on reflection (three),” the piano cuts out and we’re greeted by a deep, meditative organ drone. Little electric zaps flit across the stereo field, as if we’ve suddenly stepped into a clearing in a forest and can observe comets shooting through a vast night sky. Then, not even six minutes later, the piano loop reassembles itself, and the album proceeds as if nothing has happened.

It’s a little frustrating at first to not be able to spend more time in this space, but . . . on reflection doesn’t really seem to adhere to human instincts. Like so much of the best ambient music, it feels like something that’s just happening rather than something that’s been meticulously assembled, which is why it might take a few listens for the level of its craftsmanship to sink in. Because it lacks Basinski’s usual layers of lo-fi murk or Schaefer’s predilection for harsh sounds, it’ll be more easily accessible to newcomers than most of their work. Yet it doesn’t seem to care if you like it or not. It just flows on, impassively, as the great confusing tumult of life goes on around it.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
William Basinski / Janek Schaefer - . . . On Reflection Music Album Reviews William Basinski / Janek Schaefer - . . . On Reflection Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, May 07, 2022 Rating: 5

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