Described by producer Shu-Fang Wang as "an imaginary soundtrack originally composed for a film story set in Taipei," Before the Light gives the music of ECM recording artist Ketil Bjørnstad a cinematic twist. For this album, the pianist has written a handful of romantic melodies and atmospheric moods. The former are presented in different arrangements scattered throughout the album; the latter often include guitar soundscapes and programmed rhythm tracks. Bjørnstad is accompanied by guitarist Eivind Aarset, viola player Nora Taksdal, and keyboardist Kjetil Bjerkestrand. Each one of these short pieces (none over six minutes) makes a melodic statement that could be qualified as being quintessential ECM. The reappearance of themes at different moments ("Before the Light," "Taipei Nights," "Cookie's Face") reinforces the impression of following a movie, but the settings show enough diversity to make the process something more than...a process. For example, the title track's melody is first stated with the full quartet as the album-opener, Aarset playing a David Torn-like electric guitar (soaring, yet angular). It comes back as soft viola and piano solos in number two and number three. The samples and loops evoke urban life in very clichéd ways (the film's plot involved a taxi driver) and surely are not this music's best feature. Listen instead to the beautiful "Shimmering," a duet between piano and electric guitar. A good album of film music (imaginary or not), Before the Light presents Bjørnstad's less-jazzy side.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture