On Time Out of Time by William Basinski

Release date: March 8, 2019
Label: Temporary Residence

Those familiar with William Basinski‘s work in ambient music will no doubt understand the artist’s phenomenal creative streak in pushing the boundaries in the creation of something bigger and bolder than itself. Perhaps most known for his series of albums The Disintegration Loops, which saw Basinski producing an almost meta-performance of ambient music where the literal disintegration of his recorded music became the very albums so revered today. Such ideas might on paper seem like simple gimmicks, but Basinski’s deft hand guides his music in ways that give semblance to everything. On his latest album On Time Out of Time, Basinski further pushes his boundaries of ambient music, sampling recordings of two black holes merging together some million years ago, resulting in another performance from Basinski that is (if you’d pardon the pun), truly out of this world.

On Time Out of Time opens with the monolithic On Time Out of Time, a nearly 40-minute ambient drone utilizing the recordings of two merging black holes. The performance comes across as one of Basinski’s more difficult albums to absorb, as the general tone and aesthetic of the album itself is one that seems to inspire fear and uncertainty, similar to the feeling one gets when gazing far and wide into the vast void of space. It’s the knowledge of forces far greater than our own acting in ways we can’t even begin to imagine, creating something truly foreboding and unsettling. There’s something wonderfully powerful about it all, and though it seems terrifying, there’s something truly humbling about the experience, reminding us that we on this planet are just small specks in the incredible vast open space, unknowingly surrendering ourselves to forces way beyond our comprehension, perfect for those existential thoughts that worry about existence and our place in this universe. Even in the face of phenomenal presence of something greater than ourselves, there’s a peculiar beauty to it all, and we find times on the album where there’s nothing one can really do except sit back and listen with awe and wonder.

Basinski’s albums at times feel difficult to easily digest, but when one lets themselves be completely absorbed by the music being presented, we find ourselves in a state we may not otherwise be able to find our way into. There’s a meditative sensibility to ambient music, and even ambiance that can feel unsettling still helps morph and shift the mind into introspection, helping us think about things in a different way. Perhaps that’s one essence of Basinski’s music that makes it always so engrossing, is his ability to create something that your mind churns over and over, music that lingers on far after you’ve finished listening, that truly indulges in pure unbridled existentialism. It’s a truly wonderful thing to behold, as it further cements Basinski’s as one of our greatest modern composers of ambient music.

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