The recorded testimony of William Basinski’s heartfelt homage to David Bowie draws a diagram of the composer’s aesthetical progression. Renowned for turning sonic decay into creditable art (and a means for a comprehensive scrutiny of the inner self, for those who got the actual message), today Basinski is adjusting the knobs around the frequencies of fond remembrance and endless reiteration, with a few minor twists. In a way, he’s beautifying inertia to repel the often overwhelming anxiety of a rapidly elapsing lifetime. Also, the “decomposition factor” is not prominent as before, thus highlighting the values of brooding detachment. Ultimately, his creations are still surrounded by a mournful halo, piercing deep holes in the heart while escorting our faithlessness along the contingencies of existence.
The (theoretically) new element in the Texan’s palette appears in “For David Robert Jones”. A trademark loop – muffled to the point of not letting us understand if the perceived voices are really there – and several layers of splendid shortwave-like emanations from the Voyetra synthesizer are soon flanked by a saxophone (WB’s primary instrument, lest we forget) radically equalized to become a skinny echo from some transistor radio of the 60s. The reed phrase ends the original cadenza with a dissonant pitch: an unexpected question mark in an otherwise absolute certainty, a “what now?” following the demise of an icon that was fundamental in Basinski’s development as an artist and human being at large.
The title track is even more revealing in terms of compositional alternatives. After brief glimpses of lucent synthetic matter, a richly droning electronic texture unfolds over a sort of subterrestrial mutation. It’s easy to be enticed by this monolithic mass of slowed down melodies, dilated chords, undying resonances, massive subsonics. The harmony shifts imperceptibly, but, as it happens in Phill Niblock’s music, we just “feel” the intrinsic transitions; a remote “from-another-era” piano figure seals a major reminder of what genuine minimalism is.
The intensity of a momentous emotion; the wisdom of a musician portraying the tears of awareness on the face of ineluctability. Basinski’s perspectives are wider than ever, and we keep pursuing the wake of a veritable trendsetter. Exercise the soul – with high-quality headphones on – to determine which of the innumerable currents can soundtrack the planning of your own survival.