David Bowie: Blackstar

between sound and space: ECM Records and Beyond

David Bowie is dead, but his shadow is a birthmark on the skin of music history that no amount of lasing can eradicate. On Blackstar, his influence has spawned a parody of itself in the final hour, each a mirror held to the other so that only infinity is left regarding itself in an echo chamber of autobiographical impulses. The latter are keys to understanding—or, to be more accurate, misunderstanding—the album’s 41-minute rupture, throughout which listeners are soberly reminded of an obvious fact: we are not David Bowie.

Indeed, what at first seems an antidisestablishmentarian blowing out of the popular candle becomes, via paroxysms of repetition, the opposite—which is to say, a full-body dip of self-awareness into the ocean of cultural artifacts to which he owed his success. Bowie was by no stretch of canvas an artist who required an imminent termination to paint a portrait of his…

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