William Basinski @ Fremont Abbey

Experience the beauty of decay 🥀

📸: Courtesy Fremont Abbey Arts Center

September 29th • 8:00 pm

William Basinski is in music for the long haul—in more ways than one. First, he’s been creating ambient music since 1982, releasing 30-plus albums (including collaborations and soundtracks) with prestigious labels such as Raster-Noton and Temporary Residence. Second, his (de)compositions tend to run for extended durations, the better for them to insinuate themselves into your consciousness, where they can get down to the serious business of calming, haunting, or triggering altered states. Although a classically trained clarinetist who also studied jazz saxophone at the University of North Texas, Basinski found more creative possibilities in manipulating tape loops à la his main influences: minimalist innovator Steve Reich and rock eccentric-turned-ambient pioneer Brian Eno.

The apotheosis of this method surfaced on Basinski’s most-celebrated works, the four volumes of Disintegration Loops (2002-2003)—although I prefer the chillingly desolate “On A Frontier Of Wires” from his debut album, Shortwavemusic. But it’s Disintegration Loops that has most captured the public’s imagination, its lulling ebb and flow of blurred tones evoking the poignancy of fading into a romanticized notion of oblivion. The fact that the sound of Disintegration Loops—produced in Brooklyn shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, which Basinski witnessed in real-time—occurred through the actual flaking of iron oxide particles from 20-year-old tapes when he was transferring them to digital files only adds to their strange sense of consolation. It perfectly symbolizes the beauty of decay.

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Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal is a freelance music writer for The Wire, Pitchfork, Aquarium Drunkard, and other publications. He formerly served as staff writer at The Stranger and as managing editor at Alternative Press. Find him on Twitter @editaurus