William Basinski – Nocturnes
Many consider machines to be brilliant. Such a thing has become a trending thing on twitter. Artists slowly surrender more and more of themselves to the artifice of the machine, hoping to remove humanity out of the equation. Such artists like Yasunao Tone, Florian Hecker, and much of Raster Noton have devoted their very careers to the sort of thing. Yet William Basinski who has in many ways taken that approach has a very different output.
His work is among some of the best deconstruction of music around. Consider Basinski to be the reverse Brian Eno. Where many artists try to add onto the sound Basinski is obsessed with the decay. By focusing on the decay, the sustained tones, the gradual erosion of sound, William shows how the very concept of mortality can be a work of art. Most of his pieces involve a harking back to his previous work to tape loops specifically. Over the course of each one of his pieces the listener is treated to the piece disappearing into almost nothingness.
‘Disintegration Loops’ remains his all-time best work. Created during a time of great stress (poor artist in New York City during the early 2000s) it remembers a time when things looked considerably rosier (the tapes he used were from decades before). As the pieces melted the World Trade Center Tower fell to the ground, disappearing in smoke. It is his best known and most immediately accessible work.
In ‘Nocturnes’ his latest work, Basinski still is curious with the concept of constant looping. Unlike his previous work there is a greater sense of distortion. The work winds its way into the most nostalgic, sad part of the brain. It is a beautiful, tragic piece. With the repetition and distortion there is almost a meditative, trippy effect unlike what he’s done before. Time slows down. Little makes sense. More than a few times the music appears to almost collect itself. Here Basinski employs a different technique than what he has used in the past. It is hard to tell whether or not the piece is dissolving or evolving.
William Basinski continues to evolve, ever gradually, towards the concept of sad machines. Maybe the machines are brilliant but with Basinski’s help he shows that machines have soul too.