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William Basinski



New Yorker William Basinski has been involved in music for more than two decades--he's played saxophone in a variety of experimental contexts and helps run Arcadia, a Brooklyn performance space. But his greatest acclaim has come in the last few years, as a rash of releases from Raster-Noton, Die Stadt, and his own 2062 label have collected his gorgeous ambient music. The records are relatively new, but much of the music on them was made in the early 80s, when Basinski began experimenting with tape loops; some pieces are lovely collages that mix bits of Muzak with shortwave radio static, while others are built on layers of terse piano parts. The passage of time is the crucial element in his greatest work, The Disintegration Loops, which 2062 released on four CDs in 2003. Basinski recorded the source music for The Disintegration Loops in 1982; as he was digitizing the tapes in the summer of 2001, they began to literally fall apart on his reel-to-reel machine. "The iron oxide particles were gradually turning to dust and dropping into the tape machine, leaving plastic spots on the tape," Basinski writes in the liner notes. He adds that he felt as if he were "recording the death of this sweeping melody," but in fact something new was created instead. As the serene repetitions of slowed-down string passages soldier on, the dropouts multiply and the composition recedes further and further into the void; the music seems to be erasing itself. By the end what's left is little more than flickers of scratchy sound. All of Basinski's tape-loop work is beautiful and haunting--it's a tactile kind of ambient music that's far removed from the antiseptic soundscapes we usually associate with the term. But nothing matches the happenstance beauty of The Disintegration Loops. This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival; see page 30 for a complete schedule. Isolee headlines, Henry Grimes plays third, Basinski plays second, and Lungfish's Daniel Higgs opens. Fri 9/23, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.

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