Boomkat Product Review:
Long-awaited set of faded minimal piano compositions from ambient-experimental vanguards William Basinski and Janek Schaefer. Dedicated to Harold Budd, it's pristine, delicate and perfectly paced - sure to appeal to anyone who loved Basinski's classic "Melancholia" or Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon".
It was back in 2014 when Basinski and Schaefer decided to embark on a long-distance project swapping files between their respective bases of Los Angeles and London. The collaboration makes a lot of sense: both composers have shown an ability to balance technology with emotionality to provoke a sense of cultural nostalgia, Basinski most strikingly with his use of tape and Schaefer with vinyl. "...on reflection" developed over eight years as a slow back-and-forth, a selection of soft-focus, piano-led compositions that sidestep the expected growl of Basinski's "Disintegration Loops" or the hoarse crackle of Schaefer's "In the Last Hour".
Instead, these pieces hover around the horizontal dawnscape first explored by Harold Budd on 1978's "Pavilion of Dreams", sounding meditative and minimal without being overly repetitive. Each track sounds like a different perspective of the same frozen vista - it's described as an exploration of our collective perception of time, which is suggested carefully by archival piano recordings from both artists' vaults, that fade and blot into field recordings that offer a sense of space and place.
The album is best listened to in a single sitting to fully absorb its hypnotic charm; like Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon", the music flows like liquid glistening in the sun - there's not so much a beginning, middle or end, as there is a reflecting pool of sound and emotion. It's music that's intended to help us make sense of time - something that's come into sharp focus in the unmoored last few years - and allows us the emotional space to think without being bogged down by the contemporary chintz of the neo-new age set. There are echoes of Basinski's own flawless, piano-led "Melancholia" set, but "...on reflection" is more mature, more peaceful and icier even than that essential disc.
A fitting tribute to Harold Budd.