Illusion of Time is the result of several years' worth of collaboration between techno producer/DJ Daniel Avery and analog synth master Alessandro Cortini (a member of Nine Inch Nails). The two developed ideas remotely, previewing the fruits of their labor with a limited single available at a festival in 2017, then convened in a hotel room while Avery was touring with NIN in 2018, completing the album in a matter of hours. The release is far removed from Avery's hazy, acid-bath techno, but minus the propulsive beats, his frayed, shoegaze-like textures are unmistakable, and mesh well with Cortini's isolated electronics. The album veers between haunting, slightly apocalyptic moodscapes and more reflective moments that are almost soothing, yet there's still an unshakeable sense of melancholy throughout. Illusion of Time's title track is certainly one of its more refreshing pieces, with a gorgeous, Cluster-like keyboard melody drenched in trippy delay, but instead of making it sound clear and cloudless, they cover it in a wash of hiss and distortion. "At First Sight" similarly buries a lonesome yet irrepressible melody in thick fog, like a battered heart that refuses to break down completely. A steady, gentle analog synth pulse frames the lapping waves of feedback during "Enter Exit," and while the track generally feels a bit chaotic but hopeful, "Inside the Ruins" has a similar push/pull effect yet sounds much more desolate and closer to the brink of destruction. Close to the end of the album is "Water," an astonishingly pretty piece of shimmering drone-gaze that originally appeared as the A-side of the duo's 2017 single. (The much darker B-side, "Sun," is sequenced as the full-length's foreboding intro.) Illusion of Time fittingly sounds rougher and more spontaneous than any of Avery's work or Cortini's preceding recordings, particularly his 2019 Mute release Volume Massimo, but its highlights seem to pull divine inspiration out of practically nothing.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo