When you look at the album artwork for The Harbor at Sunset Is Crowded with Ships by Backtrace aka Thomas Gillis you see a picture of a geometric pattern that has a resemblance to a fractal (something you might imagine Alex Grey creating). A fractal in nature is a self-similar pattern, which means it looks the same on every scale. So for instance if you were watching the Ray Eames film “Power of 10” with fractals instead of the universe it would look the same at any integer. So what does this have to do with this 46- minute composition? A lot actually. If you have ever seen a picture of a fractal it is not only a geometric pattern but it could be considered art. There is a beauty to it and if I were to put music to what a fractal might sound like this composition would be one of my first choices. The song sparkles with crystal synths, various background patterns and a self-illuminating light of awareness that changes and morphs throughout but somehow stays the same. It is as if Gillis is taking a journey across the fractal and delving into the nuances of the pattern. Each twist and turn explores these fractals that are at the very heart of nature.
Gillis is smart enough to realize that 46 minutes is a long time for someone to listen to one track. He does stick to a theme but the changes within the details are what are captivating. By the time you are halfway through if you are paying attention to the song then you aren't paying attention to the time. (If you find your ADD kicking in I highly recommend breaking out a nice pair of headphones if you have any.) The music draws you in and continually dances in front of you.
As I immersed myself more into the music I stopped analyzing it and asking myself questions like “How did he make this sound” and “What instrument is that?” Ii didn't matter anymore. Instead I just became absorbed in the music that sounded like a single unified pattern that mimicked the characteristics of a fractal.
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