Cascade and The Deluge are variations on the latest tape-loop and delay composition from the inimitable William Basinski.
In Cascade, a single ancient lilting piano tape loop repeats endlessly carrying one along in its tessellating current.
In The Deluge, the same loop is processed through a series of feed-back loops of different lengths creating a spiraling crescendo of overtones that eventually fade away to silence. In the denouement, a series of limpid piano loops leads to an urgent orchestral theme that builds and gradually dies away.
Composed way back in 1979, 'A Red Score In Tile' eventually surfaced as a vinyl-only edition in 2003. Made up of piano, this shows Basinski's patented tape-loop technique perfectly and still stands as one of his most affecting pieces of music. If you've heard 'Melancholia' you'll likely know what I'm talking about, piano notes are transformed into tones by the slowly disintegrating tape, and the loops become motifs all of their own. The beauty of Basinski's work is in its patience, and this early piece is a testament to that overwhelming skill, a skill that few others possess. There are plenty of people now attempting similar things and recreating these sounds using similar methods but for my money none have come even within ten feet of William Basinski. Put this on, lie back and prepare to spend forty-five minutes in paradise. Absolutely gorgeous.
VARIATIONS: A MOVEMENT IN CHROME PRIMITIVE was created using piano tape loops, which were played randomly against themselves creating feedback loops. By cloning small cells of melody then breeding them randomly, new sounds were formed. These new sounds move in and out of the original cells, creating a complex crystalline structure, a new life form not unlike a city for example, which the original cells occupy in multitudes, moving in and out of one another in infinite combinations.
"...I got back to work and found yet another lunchbox of ancient tape-loops to go through for possible inclusion in the new piece. I came across the main theme and thought... well, this is gorgeous; let's see if we can use this to coax Viv to come out. I went through the rest of them and found another dozen or so that mixed well used randomly, just under the threshold.
"The next night I performed the piece at Issue with their 16 channel hemispherical speaker system set to move the sounds randomly around the room as if waves in a pool. We all had a really good time. It was mesmerizing."
This version was recorded with microphones and two Norelco tape decks live in my studio in Los Angeles in one take in September 2008.
Something from a long time ago... in Brooklyn, 351 jay street... A fruitful evening in the studio... Home at last after a day of work at the answering service... answering phones for Calvin Klein, Bianca Jagger, Steve Rubell, and all the other somebody people... in our space station: home in my studio experimenting live. James is in the adjacent studio painting masterpieces. Roger is in the front, gluing old shoes on canvas and painting them orange... I'm clicking the old Norelcos back and forth between channels... all the windows are open. The sound is spreading all over downtown Brooklyn mixing with the helicopters, sirens, pot smoke and fireworks...
Hypnotic new electronic ambient recording using another recently discovered loop from the archive. Premiered at Bleeding Edge Festival, Montalvo Arts Center, August 2006. "The sound was an orchestra's melody that floated out of a small tape loop... The peaceful string melody could pass for Muzak for a shopping mall or funeral home lobby... [but] the music was drained of its potential kitsch - only majesty and sadness were left." -- Cameron Macdonald
"Growing up in the 70's, with a love for the lush sound of the Mellotron, but not having the pocketbook to own one, I decided to try to create my own. I had heard that the sounds were recorded on tape loops, so I began recording small bits of lush strings from intros and interludes in muzak songs to use as my 'keys'. The aspect of pulling all the sounds from the airwaves, to create something from nothing, fascinated me. With these elemental, organic loops that I had saved aside for The River, I was attempting to record the music of the spheres. The 90 minute length was dictated by the length of the two sides of the cassette. The idea was to have a piece which could repeat endlessly creating an eternal, meditative womb of tranquility." -- William Basinski
This is a highly anticipated release, as it brings more beautiful moments by the person who I believe has inherited the mantle of "king of ambient music". Dating 1983, "The River" is a double CD consisting of two long suites, both based upon the superimposition of long loops of found sounds and shortwaves. Like in the previous 'wonderful' "Disintegration loops", Billy finds a simple way to bring the inner emotions out of us, still part of this cynical world. More than a river, I tend to link this sound with an image of myself watching a harbour immersed in the fog, standing far away and having few clues of what goes on - a boat call, a tidal wave, the quest for a communication that life itself makes more and more difficult to achieve. I love all the material but I must admit I have a slight preference for disc two, which in my opinion is a masterpiece for the years to come. -- Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org
Re-issue after 10 years (first issue on CD), originally released in limited edition LP in 1997 on Noton (now Raster-Noton). Full-length CD with bonus track.
"It is almost impossible to comprehend that Basinski was recording this stuff back in 1982, it still sounds so futuristic and prophetic, the delicate and sentimental ghost-like melodies and the sheets of echoing fizzing and buzzing... Anyone who dares suggest that instrumental music, that 'experimental' music can't affect you emotionally just needs to take a listen to this disc; it is a collection of music that seems to suggest the end is near, the end of what exactly is up to you to decide - absolutely breathtaking in every way..." -- boomkat
Comprised of one 44 minute track, Variation #9 'Pantelleria', this archival release is one of my all-time favorites of the piano and tape variations from the early eighties. Using a lilting piano melody on a small loop, the requisite magic happened in the recording process when this particular loop would randomly slip along the play head revealing an extraordinary counterpoint (in reverse) on the other side of the tape. To me, this piece evokes a lazy Arcadian summer idyll, and will always remind me of an idyllic artist's residency in 2003 on the beautiful Italian island of Pantelleria. -- William Basinski, June 2006
A new composition featuring a recently discovered tape loop melody from the earliest piano and tape experiments, c. 1979.
"The main loop in this piece is one of the original piano and tape experiments from my early days as a composer. A few of the derivative piano variations have been released: A Red Score in Tile, Chrome Primitive, some of the Melancholia pieces. Some are still to come in the archival series. This theme, a melody made up of one of the most common chord changes in western music, to me, is one that evokes the Japanese concept of "mono no aware" which translates roughly to 'the sadness of things'." -- William Basinski, November 11, 2005
Very tranquil, somnolent ambient meditation, 60 min. Composed using the Voyetra 8 synthesizer. In clear plastic sleeve with ink jet printed folder featuring a drawing by James Elaine.
It's not a coincidence that I first listened to "Silent night" on Christmas day, since this is intended to be a "somnolent meditation" about the birth of Jesus, as told by William himself. Completely conceived on the Voyetra synthesizer, it's a delicate cross of gentle intertwining melodies and cricket-like frequencies that instantly caress the nerves, inducing a state of relaxation and serenity. When compared to other Basinski's milestones, it is also a less dramatic piece but its significance - in a world where no one cares about the others anymore - is extremely deep nonetheless. The synth notes are just like children chanting carols: sincere and comprehensible without hidden ends, while the accompanying "crickets" remain alone for the final 15 minutes or so, leaving everything just suspended in the air. If I confessed you that I almost cry each and every time I watch - and listen to - "A Charlie Brown Christmas", then you will forgive me when I tell you that William's records, so different yet so near to that in their purity of intents, always manage to strike a nerve, one way or another, in my very soul. -- Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org
Like his best and most iconic works, the magic of William Basinski's new album, Nocturnes, is in the glacial, inevitable decay of something beautiful. Tape loops of prepared piano - composed and recorded more than 30 years ago - reflecting, refracting, and disintegrating into a haunting sentimental haze, like losing a vivid memory to the natural deterioration of time. Nocturnes is two sprawling new works, begun in 1979 and completed in 2012. It is Basinskiʼs first new studio release in nearly four years.
14 short melancholy tape-oops from the early eighties. Remastered and now available on conventional pressed CD in Trim-Pak (previously available as a very limited CDR). "Melancholia is probably the best Basinski's record until now, even if this is hard for me to say given my love for each one of his releases. Contrarily to his 'continuing' projects such as Disintegration Loops and Water Music, this is a sort of a sketch album, made of short pieces all created with tape loops and some synthetic wave here and there. This music is so beautifully delicate and sad in its auto-reflective moods, it stands right there with everything ranging from the usual suspects in the 'ambient' field, to a distorted damp ghost of Claude Debussy or Maurice Ravel put into a time machine. Just ravishing as you can imagine, William's almost suffocated loops celebrate the burial of any enthusiastic thought, to make room to the most difficult introspection -- the one growing you in a hurry and leaving you alone, observing from a safe distance. This beauty is for any human being who's not afraid to understand life's happenings -- maybe the hard way, but who cares?" -- Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org.
Volume II. Originally issued as a limited CDR in 2003, now reissued as a fully pressed CD. "A certain flavour of composition puts emphasis more on what could be considered 'hang-time' than 'narrative'. Some pieces don't necessarily have to 'go' anywhere in particular, their existence is simple enough in that it presents a mood, a moment, a place and encapsulates it. Think of still-images for the ears as opposed to moving-pictures for the eyes. As an audio exploration into this hovering suspension-fluid-photography, Basinski presents Watermusic. The piece utilizes what seems to be a form of generative music technique similar to that employed by Brian Eno on his 'Systems Series' works, wherein the compositional factor is comprised of the simple interaction between a limited number of carefully calculated cycling motifs, designed to create a form of self-perpetuating music. Basinki's piece, however, allows for much more randomness and unexpected event happenings than may be envisioned by this coarse description. His dense textures and softly pulsing tones continually drift around one another in gradually shifting plains of sound, creating new and constantly evolving variations on the piece's theme, yet never deviating from what defines its essential sentiment... Very much the soundtrack for a place as opposed to a film, the beautiful scene is set by gently swelling low end bass tones. Lovely soft pulses caress one another, intermingling to create something both flowing and floating at the same time." -- [k/doherty]
Early Basinski works, released on professionally pressed CDs (not CDR's!) for the first time. Minimal packaging in the style of the original release (from 2003). These works have been spoken of in hushed tones for a few years, as they have never been widely available. But the Basinski legends grows as the full catalog becomes accessible. "The first two discs of the 9 month generative ambient experiment conducted over the turn of the century. Very tranquil and soothing. Remastered and now available on CD in C-shell." "A one-hour track entirely composed on a Voyetra synthesizer, Water Music is a perfect antidote to the saccharin-drenched ambient cakes released nowadays by hundreds of self-producing wannabes. It's a never-too-present low humming lullaby, caressing the brain and the ears and slowly developing from silence. Comparisons could be made with some of Eno's best old releases, but please be advised this is not Music for films 2002 -- instead, the author gets right to the point with a simple idea, a small plant that needs to be growing in the semi-obscurity of your deep feelings. What a nice sensation." -- Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org