Review Summary: A night at a haunted opera house...
William Basinski can teach us a class of how to find sonic beauty in decaying elements and thrills in endless repetition. The ambient music master uses tape loops and sound manipulation to extract specific, mesmerizing sounds you could listen to forever. Of course, being an introspective, often abstract process, the results can be more hypnotizing for the author rather than the public. Nevertheless, when the man strikes gold, the whole experience simply entrances you. Some of his most famous works rely on cutting short pieces of old tapes to create a foundation for him to work his magic on. This gives an ephemeral touch to the projects, as he's catching a certain sequence before completely fading away. As expected, degradation is part of the charm. His latest collection, Lamentations
maintains the same mindset, however, it consists of multiple shorter affairs. Ultimately, it is a more dynamic and diverse journey than usual.
To me, the entire LP could be the music provided by an old gramophone playing loud in a derelict setting such as an empty, defunct theater. The hall echo and reverb, combined with a “once grandiose now dashed” production are very compelling. Setting a dark tone right from the beginning, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ introduces a haunting, almost industrial vibe. Meanwhile, the orchestral touches on ‘Paradise Lost’ & ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ toy with lighter yet nostalgic moods. Still, after the glitchy, low key ‘Tear Vial’, things slowly take another somber turn. Central pieces, ‘O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow’ and ‘All These Too, I, I Love’ insert operatic vocal loops over eerie sound scapes. The results are an uncanny mix of old and new with a hallucinatory effect on you. Between them, there is a string of rather harrowing numbers, significantly intensifying the experience. ‘Punch and Judy’, ‘Silent Spring’ and ‘Transfiguration’ all boast agonizing droning segments making you feel as if transposed into a burial chamber at night. Towards the end, ‘Please, This *** Has Got to Stop’ brings you back for a final act, before curtain fall. The entire journey is akin to a delusive dream, but one that is so vivid. Thankfully, Lamentations
keeps you on your toes for its expansive, one hour time span. Even after multiple listens, the layers keep unfolding. William Basinski delivered one of his finest records by choosing to fragment his creative flow and explore dark ambient territories.