Review Summary: tape loop galore.
Something about music being completely made of old tape loops seem to fascinate me greatly, so it's no surprise that William Basinski has become my latest obsession. Melancholia does exactly what it says in the title, the atmosphere of these pieces bathe in superb melancholy, usually through minimal, fragile piano pieces which seem strung throughout the album. Melancholia, like his masterpiece The Disintegration Loops, is essentially one long song but is apparently separated into 14 individual tracks. These tracks vary from one minute, to eight minutes, but the song lengths are usually determined by how long it takes to get a particular point or sound across. On first glance, it may seem like there isn't really anything on offer here, but as you settle into the tones displayed, it becomes a strong entrancing listen.
Melancholia is a test of repetition, with only one piano or cello part throughout each track and with some parts even showing up later on. But as the album progresses, the sounds you once heard make a very welcoming return, almost as if they were never even there. It's intriguing how Basinski can make an album's flow seem so natural, even though the sounds here were recorded at different periods of time. Melancholia is perfect for many occasions, from relaxing reading time to 3am insomniac depression. These tracks are so subtle that there isn't much in the way of concentrated listens, but letting it settle into the background will surely make the album have a bigger impact. One day I hope to make an album that has such a hard hitting emotional value to it, and that's essentially what Melancholia's strongest point is. Piano and cello are some of the beautiful instruments I've heard and the way that Basinski uses them is extraordinary. Ambient music is able to shut off your mind and enter you into a subconscious world of relaxation, this album is able to throw your mind into a different headspace and that's essentially what art is.
Melancholia will probably not be the album that Basinski will be known for after his death and will probably not be a stand-out album for many people, but the way that this album changes your reality for 46 minutes certainly makes it deserving of the title. William Basinski is generally underrated and is usually overshadowed by his band Current 93, but I feel his music speaks on way more many levels than Current 93's music ever will. In the end, Melancholia really is "the soundtrack to a crumbling black and white film" and is a good direction to go in after his Disintegration Loops series.