" . . . on reflection "

album by Janek Schaefer & William Basinski


Released by Temporary Residence NYC

Reflective silver foil packaging and metallic silver LP
CD released 29th April 2022
LP released 21st Oct 2022

Listen on Spotify : Buy Listen on Bandcamp : Buy on Amazon


"sublime compositional genius"
Ambient Landscape


The #1 'New Ambient Album' on Amazon chart

track listing

" . . . on reflection " (one)
" . . . on reflection " (two)
" . . . on reflection " (three)
" . . . on reflection " (four)
" . . . on reflection " (five)

play on repeat



"one of the richest and most sumptuously sound-designed works of either’s career"
Pitchfork

"The final result is as radiant and poignant as one might expect.
" … on reflection " is a late-in-life highlight from two artists who have already left
a pretty significant footprint on modern sound art already"

Bandcamp

"incredibly lovely"
All Music Guide

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Press Release

Time and duration are core themes in the work of both William Basinski and Janek Schaefer, and this long-distance collaboration took a suitably long gestation of eight years from start to finish. In that time, our collective perception of time has at times become disorienting. “ . . . on reflection ”remodels that instability as an exquisite work of art – one that is unmoored by time or space. Limitation breeds creativity, revealed as an expression of minimalism and close focus. Deploying delicate piano loops from their collective archive, Basinski and Schaefer weave and reweave in numerous ways, forging an iridescent flurry of flickering melodies. The sounds of various birds heard from late night windows on tour can occasionally be heard throughout, ricocheting off mirrored facades, reflecting on themselves as they continually reshape their own environments with song. “ . . . on reflection ” looks backwards, a bustling revelry of positive emotions heard through the aging mirrors of memory. It is a celebratory meditation where sound shimmers through time like the light of the sea’s waves glistening as it folds and unfolds upon itself.


Created 2014-2022 between L.A. & London. Mixed at Narnia, Walton-on-Thames.
Mastered by Raphael Irisarri.


For Harold Budd.

 

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:REVIEWS:

Pitchfork - score 8.0
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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.


Bandcamp curatiorial
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Except for Brian Eno and, perhaps, Aphex Twin, William Basinski is probably the most iconic ambient artist alive today. On his latest album, … on reflection, the 63-year-old musician teamed up with prolific English multidisciplinary artist Janek Schaefer. Embracing wistful and evocative composition techniques, the duo’s collaboration is surprisingly organic—more indebted to the stylings of contemporary classical than tape-looped drones. This long-distance collaboration came to life over eight years, and meditates on the bewildering nature of the passage of time. The album underlines silvery synthesis and recordings of chirping birds with a tumbling piano motif, while the liner notes cite memory, aging, and hindsight as thematic touchstones for the project.

The final result is as radiant and poignant as one might expect. … on reflection is a late-in-life highlight from two artists who have already left a pretty significant footprint on modern sound art already.

The Wire May 2022
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Boomkat
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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

 

Our Culture Mag
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William Basinski is an esteemed documenter of gloom. In his earlier works like The Disintegration Loops or Melancholia, he repurposed his personal archive of tape loops, lingering on the breakdown of sounds lost in time. The Disintegration Loops, which records a gradual deterioration of looped tapes, was finished on the rooftop of a Brooklyn apartment on September 11th, 2001. The album’s bleak, slowly collapsing sound became emblematic of the harrowing future which followed 9/11. Consequently, the project found a cultural relevance rare for an ambient album. Yet Basinski’s body of work is far more varied than the pure moroseness he’s often associated with. In their new work “ . . . on reflection ”, Basinski and his collaborator Janek Schaefer, the avant-garde composer and a fellow master of repurposing bygone sounds, return to ideas of retrospection with results that prove unexpectedly bittersweet.

“ . . . on reflection ” is a minimalist assembly of sounds extracted from both Basinski and Schaefer’s musical archives. The album, crafted long-distance between L.A. and London over an eight-year span, structures around fragmented piano melodies. Over the course of five tracks (essentially one piece broken into five movements), the piano glides along, more romantic and less atonal than typical Basinski projects. The melodies themselves are unstable, with no coherent structure. Yet they remain central to the track: an omnipresent voice. In the background, a variety of disparate field recordings waft in and out. They simmer quietly, sometimes gaining prominence and rising to the same volume as the piano. The sounds range from gentle birdsongs to the roar of vehicular engines. Basinski and Schaefer use field recordings to situate the spaceless sound of the heavily reverbed piano in transient physical environments. Sounds recorded over a long span of time in an array of distinct places merge into one work based around the tension between unity and disconnect.

However, unlike with The Disintegration Loops, the re-interpretation of a personal music archive doesn’t result in a bleak portrait. Basinski and Schaefer produce a tranquil ambient work, reminiscent of new age artists like Yutaka Hirose. Unlike recent Basinski albums like Lamentations or On Time Out of Time, there’s an ease to “ . . . on reflection ” and its archival sounds. On those previous records, the music’s spacelessness feels burdensome. Bassy reverberations echo endlessly into a sphere of infinite disquiet. With “ . . . on reflection ”, Basinski and Schaefer situate their archival sounds in soothing environments; the persistent call of bird tweets almost feels cliché in its pleasantness. Ultimately, the timelessness of the music isn’t a gateway to existential doom but, rather, to something more peaceful and meditative.

“ . . . on reflection ” is dedicated to Harold Budd, the seminal ambient artist (though he’d reject the category of “ambient”) and pianist. Budd’s influence on Basinski and Schaefer is undeniable. “ . . . on reflection ” shares a similar approach to soft, piano melodies: notes soaked with reverb, until the space of their recording feels abstract. The album is a humble tribute to a master who passed away a year and a half ago and also a spiritual exercise, prompting us to find pleasure in becoming unbound from space and time.

 

All Music Guide
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William Basinski and Janek Schaefer gradually produced their first collaboration over an eight-year period, working from their respective homes in Los Angeles and London. The five parts that make up " . . . on reflection " generally consist of scattered piano notes drifting like flower petals that have softly fallen onto the surface of a pond, while chirping birds, traffic noises, and other sounds are audible. Compared to some of Basinski's other piano-based works, such as The Garden of Brokenness or Cascade, this one is clearer, less melancholy, and more tranquil. Albums such as those are longform pieces you put on when you're in a certain mood and you need to burrow inside of a massive stream of sound that changes almost imperceptably, and remain inside that space for a while. This one is more delicate, and the variation is more obvious, even if much of it stays within the same peaceful zone. The pieces with panned, softly overlapping piano notes are all incredibly lovely, particularly the second one, which gradually becomes more insistent, revealing that there's a much more deliberate placing to these notes than it might seem at first. The third piece is a rolling, grainy cloud of atmospheric synths and faintly crackling tape loops, with sparse piano notes and bird calls only appearing during the last two minutes. The fourth part slowly segues between rushing water, hissing steam, and beeping cars, while the echo increases on the pianos, intensifying the feeling even though everything appears to remain still. The album makes a fitting soundtrack for a period of reflection, of course, but its intricate layers of sonic detail will reward listeners willing to dive deeper.


Ambient Landscape
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“reflecting on ‘. . . on reflection’ ”

How would one circumnavigate a straight line between fullness . . . and sparsity? Between the delicate. . . and powerful?? Solidity vs. vaporousness???

I’ve been listening to “. . .on reflection”, a collaborative and engaging work between musicians William Basinski & Janek Schaefer; I’ve had it on ‘repeat’ for the last several days, and am mesmerized by the delicate balance between soft & firm, fluid & solid and ethereal & real-time aural construction. It immediately brings to mind the ambient collaborations between Harold Budd, Brian Eno & John Foxx; (that is to say: a powerful canon of composition*).

The five tracks dance to an avant-garde ambience that draws the listener into its interior web of mirrored cadence of piano & electronic meditation. The haunting, ofttimes sparse and meandering, melodies reverberate across an emotional landscape that yields only to the listener’s wonderfully imaginative, inner wanderings; i.e. what will you do; what will you accomplish and for what will you strive within this newly discovered, aurally rich world? Let the trinkling, tinkling melodies wash over you — then set your sights to new & broader horizons.

When all is said, done and listened to, it’s a crossroads: a juncture where delicately woven, nuanced tapestries of sound meet the shimmering reality of sublime compositional genius (and a highly recommended #ambient acquisition).

Bravo, gentlemen!

Basinski Schaefer Eno Budd chart neighbours


Crack Magazine
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Dedicated to the late, great avant-garde composer Harold Budd, and the result of eight years of collaboration between ambient auteurs William Basinski and Janek Schaefer, …on reflection is an intriguing prospect.
The album seemingly could have been recorded and released at any point in time since Brian Eno pioneered modern ambient music in the late 70s. It’s as non-threatening as the genre gets: five barely-there songs floating across a 42-minute running time with all the energy of dust motes sighing their way round a wooden floor on a sun-dappled morning. It’s a collection of songs that demands next to nothing of the listener. And yet, it’s a beguiling piece of work that, like all the best ambient music – say, Eno’s On Land, Pop by GAS, and Budd’s own The Pavilion of Dreams – deftly maps out its own unique sonic terrain.
Comprised largely of limpid, lapping pianos, elegiac tape hiss and the occasional interlude from the world beyond Schaefer and Basinski’s hard drives (early morning birdsong on …on reflection (five), the trundle of a car receding into the distance on …on reflection (two), the LP dares to remain static, largely unvarying in tone and timbre. The result is a pellucid reminder that sometimes the wheel works and doesn’t need reinventing. That it is simply enough to give an audience the gorgeous, weightless sounds they expected.

All Music Critics review
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William Basinski and Janek Schaefer gradually produced their first collaboration over an eight-year period, working from their respective homes in Los Angeles and London. The five parts that make up " . . . on reflection " generally consist of scattered piano notes drifting like flower petals that have softly fallen onto the surface of a pond, while chirping birds, traffic noises, and other sounds are audible. Compared to some of Basinski's other piano-based works, such as The Garden of Brokenness or Cascade, this one is clearer, less melancholy, and more tranquil. Albums such as those are longform pieces you put on when you're in a certain mood and you need to burrow inside of a massive stream of sound that changes almost imperceptably, and remain inside that space for a while. This one is more delicate, and the variation is more obvious, even if much of it stays within the same peaceful zone. The pieces with panned, softly overlapping piano notes are all incredibly lovely, particularly the second one, which gradually becomes more insistent, revealing that there's a much more deliberate placing to these notes than it might seem at first. The third piece is a rolling, grainy cloud of atmospheric synths and faintly crackling tape loops, with sparse piano notes and bird calls only appearing during the last two minutes. The fourth part slowly segues between rushing water, hissing steam, and beeping cars, while the echo increases on the pianos, intensifying the feeling even though everything appears to remain still. The album makes a fitting soundtrack for a period of reflection, of course, but its intricate layers of sonic detail will reward listeners willing to dive deeper.

treble magazine
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Eight years in the making, “…on reflection“ brings together two avant garde masters in a hauntingly beautiful Venn diagram. William Basinski may be best known for The Disintegration Loops and other experiments with taped music, while Janek Schaefer has recast vinyl records and turntables in wildly different roles through his career. But the pair overlap on “…on reflection“ through found sound including their own finely-meshing piano playing, slowly building a calm refuge from their often daunting catalogs as well as from today’s mad world.
Schaefer and Basinski started swapping files between London and Los Angeles in 2014, and over time these were molded into a five-part suite that broadly suggests time-warp sampledelica, the accidents/incidents present in performances of John Cage’s “4:33,” and the soft keyboard abstractions of countless ambienteers like Harold Budd, to whom the album is dedicated. There’s constant interplay between melodies cracked like mosaics, drowned in echo and drone, and the sounds of everyday existence.
The middle part of this LP replaces the piano with organ and synth drones, staticky and distant like Boards of Canada. Yet the four remaining sections push “…on reflection“ to function much in the same way as Promises, last year’s stunning partnership of Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders. Basinski and Schaefer collectively come to rest on a piano figure repeated, and edited on the fly, across the entire album. Introduced as pretty in part 1, one new note gives it a dissonant scowl in part 2, and through the back 15 minutes it gets loose and ecstatic, bumping into itself as a bell chime in the wind.
Their found-sound recordings seem to represent the ambience of, well, just being—maybe a step onto dry grass, maybe a deep breath, a shuffled paper, a hand gliding across a table, the endless friction of clothing. Granted, moving from chirping birds recorded from open windows on tour, to the hum of the tour bus, and then to the honks of nearby traffic may not sound like the most soothing ingredients for atmospheric music. But both the lines of environmental chatter and the lines of piano running through “…on reflection“ feel centering and meditative.
Schaefer and Basinski suggest places with no names, no identifying features, and therefore no preconceived notions, and these days that might be quite a civil society indeed. The duo weave melody and white noise like a nest, producing something in “…on reflection“ that’s fragile yet comfortable.

The Guardian
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echoes and dust
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William Basinski & Janek Schaefer release their collaboration on reflection. The five tracks are closely similar, the most prominent sounds being gentle piano motifs, with other hums here and there, and the faint intrusion of field-recording-ish sounds, like the klang of a distant bell, indistinct crowd noise, even traffic, whispered bits. It’s a pleasant but somewhat insubstantial release, like a 20-second soundtrack to a ‘slow hazy waking-up’ scene in a movie expanded to forty minutes.
It’s not really the kind of album to dissect the tracks separately as they all stick to a set menu of sounds and structures (they don’t even have distinct titles other than ‘on reflection (part x)’. The third has a bit more droning ambience foregrounded, with the piano taking a back seat to the humming and murmuring, with some birdsong and vague everyday noises, but even so, separating tracks seems to miss the point of the whole piece. Instead better to think of the recording as a whole as a kind of aural air freshener to be wafted around your living space, with the divergent responses that might imply: genuine appreciation of a pleasant, pastel-flavoured room enhancer, or annoyance at an ersatz attempt at mood engineering.

Rate your music
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Basinki and Schaefer craft an intriguing soundscape detached from the ticking clock.
Without glancing at the clock, it can be difficult to discern by ear when “…on reflection” begins and when it ends. This is not much of a critique, for it seems by design. “Time and duration are core themes in the work of both William Basinski and Janek Schaefer,” mentions the description on the release page for Bandcamp.

This description proves to be quite accurate upon finishing the first track. The piano melody is rather aimless, suspended someplace else for some seven minutes or so. It would be inaccurate to describe the atmosphere as entirely cathartic, though it is tranquil and absent of any energy. And while the piano melody plays closely to the ear, the field recordings are distant.

The third reflection removes the piano and focuses solely on creating a blissful atmosphere. As in the other compositions for the record, the sounds move nowhere and are immune to time’s unforgiving forward motion. Not until the field recordings reappear towards the second half of the closing track does the clock start ticking again. The sonic atmosphere fades away, and the world comes back into focus as the field recordings replace the album's soundscape.

Basinski and Schaefer’s ability to create a soundscape detached from the ticking clock proves to be the most fascinating aspect of listening to these reflections, just as they had intended. How the field recordings and atmosphere are distanced from each other contributes significantly to giving the sounds a space of their own.

Post-trash
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“ . . . on reflection “, the new collaborative album by William Basinski and Janek Schaefer, two modern classic/post-ambient music masters, bears the subtitle “for Harold Budd”. Budd, the late legend of such music himself, seems to have always had two well known sayings on his mind, “repetition is the mother of learning” and “the devil is in the details”.
These are the maxims Basinski and Schaefer abide by here. Picking up on piano passages recorded anywhere between 2014 and 2022, the duo try to explore how weaving and reweaving of passages can at the same time, create repetition, but how minute details and small changes can make a big difference in sound. They couple it with subtle field recordings that add an intricate touch of reality to the proceedings.
While the music here sounds like it was prepared instantly in the studio, it turns out it was a long distance collaboration between London and Los Angeles, and as the duo puts it, in the eight years it took to complete the music presented here, “our collective perception of time has at times become disorienting.”
Using both repetition and minute details here on five “ on reflection “ pieces, Basinski and Schaefer build the album as one piece in seven installments, or if you will, as one thought, remembrance, and look forward at the same time, that just might be shifting in different directions as it progresses. One main thread of thinking turned into music permeates all seven pieces or parts of the main thought, slowly shifting, sometimes in minor detail, but constantly building up, then reducing and repeating the process to crystalize that main idea or thought. It could be about the past, the future, or exactly where we are now.
Actually, it is probably all of those, as reflecting on the past and now is always a foundation to build up something that is forthcoming. Maybe that is one of the reasons “ . . . on reflection " acquires that timeless quality many modern classical/post-ambient albums and artists try to achieve but rarely get close to.

Rate your music
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". . . on reflection " is a collaborative album from William Basinski and Janek Schaefer, two individuals who have made their own respective marks within the realm of ambient music. This is the kind of record where nothing happens. At this point, ". . . on reflection " was given two separate paths to choose from. On left is a path that leads to forgettable but harmless ambient noises that have no impact, negative or positive. On the right is a path that leads to reasonably strong ambience and drone work that excels thanks to minimalistic piano accompaniment that builds a subtle yet elegant atmosphere. Thankfully, the album choose the right path; and what a lovely path it is.

album of the year.org
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i find it really hard to try to review ambient works. this one is so etherial it feels that trying to describe it, is much like trying to describe a cloud, at once formless but deeply intricate the closer you look until you look too close and it starts to become formless again. So I'm listening to this whilst working away.

Review in Hebrew from Israel
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album of the year.org
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After experiencing that record from Black Metal Device, I don't think I could have been more thankful for this palate cleanser. Of course I'm familiar with William Basisnki's The Disintegration Loops, one of the most celebrated ambient recordings of all time, but other than that, I'm not too familiar with his work. This new work isn't solely the creation of Basinski as he is joined this time around by another notable avant-garde artist, Janek Schaefer. The result of their collaboration functions as intended; that is creating a serene, occasionally curious soundscape that I'm sure anyone would be happy to get lost in. ... on reflection is a fifty-four minute piece separated into five distinct phases. The album's introduction is a beautifully calming piece that features a soft piano, meditating on this deconstructed chord. This continues into the second phase but is joined with singing birds and sounds of civilization. There is also this piano motif that occasionally pops up from time to time, melodically clashing with the main progression and adding a sense of mystery. The pianos take a break in the third phase as we get this droning audio sample that sounds like it is being fed through a long echo. It is not too dissimilar to what you would hear on The Disintegration Loops. The last two phases don't really introduce new ideas but I do like the circular nature of the piece; the third phase acting like the point of reflection. Still though, these two phases are very pleasing and there's usually a perfectly timed element that swells up and hooks you back in whenever you start to feel disengaged. When it comes to ambient music, I've never really kept up to date. However, this album did provide me with one of the most therapeutic and relaxing moments I've had in recent memory. So I think I'm going to take this as a subtle hint that I need to check out more ambient music going forward.

Sputnik Music
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Basinski and Schaefer, typically for both of them, bring heavily arranged and ambitious neo-classical music so close to full ambient that the lines become all blurred.

La Presse Newspaper Montreal
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Le temps altère les souvenirs. Se remémorer avec précision des évènements antérieurs demande un effort de concentration et, malgré tout, ceux-ci s’effritent au fil des jours, des mois et des années qui passent.

Fermons les yeux.

Pensons à notre dernière soirée avec des amis sur une terrasse, alors que le soleil se couche. Pouvons-nous recréer avec précision ce moment sans oublier des détails ? Les rires, le bruit de la rue, les gens qui discutent, les oiseaux au loin. Et si nous répétons l’exercice dans une heure, la reconstitution sera-t-elle la même ? Non, bien sûr.
Le traitement temporel, la mémorisation des souvenirs, les fluctuations et les oscillations dans les partitions musicales sont au cœur de “... on reflection”, nouvelle œuvre bouclée et aérienne signée par le spécialiste du genre William Basinski, en collaboration avec Janek Schaefer, compositeur, musicien et DJ, connu également pour son amour des arts visuels et numériques.

Sur une période de huit ans, de 2014 à 2022, et toujours à distance – l’un habite à Londres, l’autre à Los Angeles –, les deux hommes ont partagé des fichiers provenant de leurs archives personnelles : partitions de piano, notes synthétiques et captations audio de tous genres (piaillements d’oiseaux, pluie, vent, système d’échappement de moto, klaxons de voiture, rires, discussions lointaines, etc.).
Une fois cette imposante banque créée, les deux adeptes du minimalisme ont éludé les sonorités de toutes turbulences et déflagrations, cherchant à les harmoniser et les lisser jusqu’à ce qu’elles deviennent banales, mais non sans intérêt.

Ainsi tissées, cinq versions de cette courtepointe musicale sont offertes par Basinski et Schaefer sur “... on reflection”.
S’il est attentif, l’auditeur décèlera les discordances et relèvera les fluctuations entre elles. S’il se laisse porter par la beauté et la légèreté des harmonies entendues, il revivra le souvenir heureux de sa plus récente soirée sur une terrasse, avec des amis, alors que le soleil se couche. On préfère être cet auditeur.

Spectrum Culture
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Minimalist/ambient composer and recording artist Harold Budd died of COVID just three days before the vaccine was approved for use in the United States. Leading up to that fateful date, the label Temporary Residence Ltd. vowed to release one album for free each week on their Bandcamp site until a vaccine was developed. And now, perhaps coincidentally, William Basinski and Janek Schaefer pay tribute to the late Mr. Budd through Temporary Residence Ltd. with their album “…on reflection”. It’s a 42-minute piece of billowy synths and overlapping, sinewy piano figures, one that would likely please the tributary subject with its soft touch. Sometimes the two artists feed off of one another, complimenting each airy pad with a corresponding background or undercurrent. At other times, “…on reflection” plays out like it was collaged together from parts created for something else but wound up in the mix. Any way you dissect it, “…on reflection” is as subtle as it gets. Even its darkest moments still wind up shining like sparkling water.
“Deploying a delicate piano passage from their collective archive, Basinski and Schaefer weave and reweave in numerous ways, forging an iridescent flurry of flickering melodies.” Believe it or not, this is about as concrete as things get in “…on reflection”’s press release. All other sentences are just too cryptic to unpack, leaving readers wondering if there truly is only one piano passage serving as the source inspiration or if there is some kind of poetic license at use. In reality, “…on reflection” is a bit more varied than that, but just barely. The album shifts and ebbs overall, but it goes about it so slowly that it’s entirely easy to tune out the transitions. The forest winds up looking different from where you started, but many of those trees you encountered along the way just didn’t stand out from one another. Is “…on reflection” the sound of two artists sleepwalking their way through their art? Or is it a masterpiece of deceptive growth? And perhaps mostly important, does it have to be either one?

All five tracks are numerically named after the album’s title, a move that lets everyone know that track titles just do not matter this time. The transition from “…on reflection (one)” to “…on reflection (two)” allows some outdoor sound effects to blur the segue before reintroducing piano lines that juggle perfectly tonal cadences with just a little bit of harmonic weirdness. For the third track, the piano makes a soft exit so that the lush pads of the future. By the fifth and final track, the birds are out and chirping and the streams are churning as Basinski and Schaefer’s sounds become less and less. The concluding fade is just as unassuming as all of the other album’s changes – in other words, barely there.
The recorded output of the late Harold Budd was not terribly consistent. Some of his albums, like Avalon Sutra and The Pavilion of Dreams could be either masterpieces or small-time game-changers. On the other hand, releases like Bandits of Stature and Little Windows sounded nice but didn’t achieve anything artistically. Somewhere inside of “…on reflection” is a particular brew of minimalist ambient music that seeks to disrupt the flow of pretty notes and innocuous background sounds. Trouble is, Basinski and Schaefer buried it so deep that most listeners won’t be able to excavate it. For both its merits and its faults, “…on reflection” remains a fitting tribute to the legend.

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Basinski's wonderful career defined my taste in ambient music, and he's succeeded once again with ". . . on reflection".
". . . on reflection" goes back to the core concept of ambient music as imagined by Eno: it lacks percussion, it has generative elements, and most importantly, it is as ignorable as it is interesting. Since the years of Aphex Twin ambient has strayed away from this original concept, becoming inextricably linked with the percussive rhythms of electronic genres. And don't get me wrong, I love post-Aphex Twin ambient music - but there's something incredibly old (and perfect) about ". . . on reflection".

Part of this record's beauty lies in the moments between the actual musical notes, in which interesting little sonic digressions, like the singing of night birds or the distant hum of a truck's motor, can be heard. Combined with the winding, never-quite predictable generative piano melodies, these digressions make ". . . on reflection" one of the most meditative pieces of music I've heard since Basinski's own Disintegration Loops.

The emotions this album conjures for me are indescribable. Obviously, it should be listened to cover-to-cover. I happened to listen to this album for the first time - and am currently doing so once again - while staying briefly at my parents' house, which now strangely is not my 'home.' I am listening to my family's voices as they move around the kitchen. Sunlight pours in at a familiar window. It is newly summer. I am safe, and I remember old things.


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I wouldn’t say they were opposites, but musically William Basinski and Janek Schaefer come from a somewhat different directions. Basinski is best known for his long sustained loop-based tacks that often investigate the process of decay. Schaefer has created many conceptual sound art projects and performances: way back in 1995 he presented Recorded Delivery: a recording of the fragmented noises of a sound-activated dictaphone traveling overnight through the Post Office. Both are ‘sonic sculptors’ that welcome the role of chance in ther compositional processes. In working together their individual approach complements each other very well, as can be heard on their “… on reflection”.
This album took no less than eight years to create: sending files and ideas between Los Angeles and London between 2014 and 2022. The first thing noticed is the bright sounding piano, ‘a delicate piano passage from their collective archive’ that they ‘weave and reweave in numerous ways, forging an iridescent flurry of flickering melodies’.
The album is dedicated to Harold Budd, but there are also striking similarities to some of the (piano-centered) works of Akira Rabelais.
The piano theme slowly drifts from foreground to background (and back again), fragments are looped or highlighted, or temporarily disappear in a cloud of static and soft distortion (… On Reflection (Three)).
The atmosphere is subtly enhanced with the occasional sounds of various birds ‘heard from late-night windows on tour, ricocheting off mirrored facades, reflecting on themselves as they continually reshape their own environments with song’.
‘… on reflection’ is divided into five chapters, but it can best be enjoyed in one uninterrupted session. It has the power to generate the languid sensation of having a nap on a hot summer afternoon.