If there is one word that sums up this collaboration between British producer Daniel Avery and Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, it’s lo-fi. Every sound on Illusion Of Time feels worn down, degraded, bleating like it comes from a synthesiser on its last legs, and this effect is at times poignant and elegiac, at times menacing and abrasive.
Opening track Sun is the heaviest of the record, a bassy 2-note motif that crackles with overdrive and blares like a foghorn, and aside from a short coda it is extremely repetitive. This type of track, see also Enter Exit and Space Channel, is reminiscent of Fennesz in its use of relentless noise to create a paradoxical form of ambience: distortion washing over the listener like waves as the musical material repeats again and again.
Speaking of waves and washing, Water is a surefire highlight with its cascading synth sequence and air of melancholy. It feels like a perpetual IV chord, looking for a resolution that never arrives, and as the sound keeps on building the scale becomes orchestral. Inside The Ruins goes in the opposite direction, grotty and dingy, grim and imposing slabs of bassy detritus echoing in the stereo field, a true dirge but no less enjoyable for that.
At First Sight is the most overt play for euphoria on the album, a soaring melody shining defiantly over plodding bass notes – think System F as reimagined by Sunn O))) – that feels sweet and endearing despite the snarl of amplifiers. Where Avery was perhaps a little formulaic with his previous record, Song For Alpha, here he is inventive and reinvigorated, and Illusion Of Time stands out as an emotional and enjoyable, if bracing, release.