Whenever a new William Basinski‘s project comes out the listener knows what to expect. With the exeption of 2005’s “Melancholia”, a minimalistic set of haunting, piano-based tracks, the New Yorker composer is used to drift working with tape loops, electronics and drones. His ability to shape beautiful landscapes is unparalleled in contemporary ambient music, and “A Shadow In Time” turns out to be a very gratifying record.
“For David Robert Jones” is the first of two tracks and it’s a clear eulogy to David Bowie‘s death and beyond the title the references are many. The constant sorrow that permeate the whole 20 minutes are relatable to Blackstar, while the distorded tenor saxophone that comes out around the sixth minute is reminiscent of “Low”. Basinski fills the holes with epic drones, accomplishing a touching contrast that fades and reshapes repeatedly until everything begins to crumble: at the end each piece of the texture is gradually deconstructed into an hypnotic silence that perfectly sums up the void that Bowie left with his departure.
Basinski’s strength was never inherent to maintain a continuity between different parts of his albums, as he always has the tendencies to distinguish every track from the other while barely grasping on to a common sound. “A Shadow In Time” the second and last song of the album, is connected to the previous solely because of the drones, while the emotional pattern and the sound-palette is absolutely discordant from the opener. The title track is one of the most straight forward composition of William’s career and it feels warm, innocent, almost obliging. It effortlessly guides the listener throughout the buzz up to an expected but still emotional transition, a swan song for the album represented by fading piano notes while the murmur slowly disappear in the background.
The record’s real centerpiece is still represented by the tape loops, a trademark of Basinski music, but especially in “For David Robert Jones” the composer managed to install some new and surprisingly successful elements. Following this argument, the opener results by far in the most significant piece while the closer sounds a little bit predictable and not odd enough for William’s standards.
While it doesn’t reach the greatness of “The Disintegration Loops” series, “A Shadow In Time” admirably blends agony with purity and the result is an unmissable album for all ambient’s aficionados.
Listen to the full album here: