Thursday, May 11, 2023

In Praise of Shadows By Billy Denk


In Praise of Shadows


Billy Denk

Written by

Steve Sheppard


I felt I need of an oasis of calm this morning, yesterday had been a sea of changes for me, and whilst change is a good thing, I felt in need of a little ambience, so a big thank you to Billy Denk for providing that for me via the refrains of his brand new album In Praise of Shadows.

I must say I totally enjoyed this most soothing release, tracks like The Sun Was Shining eased me into a day that was so amazingly chilled, the vibrations of this composition were doubly so, this is like laying in a meadow and being surrounded by nothing but the delicate hand of nature itself. Denk provides us with a sanctuary of sound, and his keyboards, synth and guitar structures are sublimely wonderful.

Two of my favourite musical subjects are the quality of light, and shadows, so I was eager to see how this new release would pan out as we drift into the welcome arm of In Fairness to You. Here we have a somewhat different texture to enjoy, a piece that is vast in its overall construction, there is also a slight emotive nuance that keeps pushing through; for me this is a complex piece, one that plays with both the dark and light of musical matters.

As an ambient musician myself, I am always eager to see what other musicians do with calm segments, space and solitude within their music, I am glad I came across this next track as it would turn out to be one of my favourites, and called Unto This Light; this is ambient music at its best, a hovering intensity can be found here, a composition that actually manifests ambience by leaving space for the arrangement to grow organically.

This Day Has Come is the track that awaits us at the half way juncture of the album, Denk has created something quite crafted here by manifesting energies of realisation within his composition. This music could easily be the anthem for that moment when you realise that today is the day you must take action on a certain subject, or denial is no longer an option, the keyboards, synths and guitar are sublime here, bringing us a blissful sanctuary of the musical soul.

I could listen to music like this all day long, several names come to mind, but we have an artist who is on our Jazz circuit here in Cyprus in Vassilis Philippou, his ambience and almost New Age Jazz brought me so much joy at last year’s festival. Now Denk brings us Forever Within, a wonderful example of an Avant-garde style, a piece that simply seems to float between the shoreline and the tide of musical heaven, this performance is both creative and artistically supreme in its overall narrative.

So we find ourselves swimming in the deeper waters of the release when we come across a track entitled Reflections in Darkness, this one is a tranquil fusion of ambience and electronic mastery, here Denk manifests a foundation of sound, and upon that adds in layers of tone and vibration with his multi-instrumental disposition. I must say this is one of the finest examples of experimental ambient music I have heard for some years.

The Long Cold Winter is always a great subject to create music for, here Denk, from the very starting note, manufactures that hovering iciness of midwinter, the impending darkness, the frozen wastelands, the desolation of nature, it’s all here for us to get lost within. This is without doubt the darkest offering from the album and so it should be, but a composition so brilliantly created that it reminded me of Lizard Point by the master of ambient music himself, in Brian Eno.

So we arrive at the very last track off the album and this concluding piece is easily the most emotive from the release, and called Spirit Ascension, whatever your belief system or none, this one will move you, the organ entrance on this creation was simply amazing and set the scene instantly, the steady and slight elevation of tone continued to its final conclusion, on one of the finest compositions from the album.

In Praise of Shadows by Billy Denk has been for me, one of my most enjoyable listens this year, the artist has manifested something completely original and built it on the foundations of ambient music, and done it so well, it is one of those releases that it would be very easy to leave on repeat all day long. Here is an album that allows itself to grow and mature to find its own purpose. In Praise of Shadows by Billy Denk is a little sanctuary of ambience that everyone needs in their personal record collections, and highly recommended by this music writer with an absolute ease.

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