Album Preview - William Basinski - Lamentations
"Please, this shit has got to stop" is likely something that we've each muttered a few times in recent years. Or weeks. Or maybe in the past 24 hours. Well don't worry, because William Basinski - ambient music pioneer and master of the tape loop - is here to document our capitalistic hubris, political stratification, and social unrest. As he did on the seminal Disintegration Loops twenty years ago, Basinski soundtracks American decay on his new work, Lamentations. But he's updated themes to reflect the times. Song titles include the opening line, as well as the equally sunny Paradise Lost and O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow. This from a guy who posts daily pictures of his orange cat and a pink flamingo pool toy. In all seriousness, though, Basinski's compositions feel crushing, weighing heavy on the listener. Like the reel-to-reel tape he is known to manipulate, Basinski spins us through an apocalyptic landscape and our collective 2020 experience.
Lamentations is an anthology of sorts, and the massive scope of recordings Basinski has collaged together from 40 years of archival entries makes the album that much more impressive. Some tracks are made up of layered hiss and noise, an aesthetic to be expected from the artist, but there are a few surprises on Lamentations, too. Tear Vial features a beautifully delicate piano melody, repeated hypnotically. Later in the album, highlight All These Too, I, I Love is an operatic record skip, warped and woozy. But the album's centerpiece is the aforementioned lead single, O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow. The narrative of this track is a curious one, as an instrumental loop crumbles into ash while a competing vocal loop slowly crystallizes over the course of seven minutes. Like the best of Basinski's catalogue, the song is both epic and mournful.
It feels that in recent years, more and more people have found beauty in decay, and Basinski's work feels very much in this same vein. Perhaps there is a comfort in nature's resilience, reminding us humans that we are but a blip on the cosmic timeline. Or maybe when taking a look around at our shit world today, we just want to burn it down. Lamentations is out this Friday the 13th through Temporary Residence Ltd., and it is an essential listen to close out 2020. Find it linked here and hear a preview cut below.