William Basinski: Lamentations review – Ambient maestro makes grief sound beautiful
American avant-garde composer William Basinski has already authored a 21st- century masterpiece, The Disintegration Loops, which he released as a series of four albums in 2002 and 2003. It is quite possibly the most moving musical reaction to the horror of 9/11, which Basinski witnessed from a rooftop in Brooklyn as he prepared for a job interview scheduled in the World Trade Center on that fateful September day.
Now residing in Los Angeles, Basinski has become an extraordinarily prolific producer of experimental ambient music over the past two decades. Death and decay loom throughout his work. His 2017 album, A Shadow in Time, featured an elegiac piece dedicated to the late David Bowie titled For David Robert Jones.
On Lamentations, grief permeates its 12 tracks, which he created using obsolete technology and a vast archive of analogue tape loops spanning back to 1979. O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow is reminiscent of Burial’s haunting soundscapes. Wheel of Fortune and Paradise Lost could be distant cousins of Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine.
The composer is a close friend and associate of Anohni, who Basinski recently likened to “his daughter”. He shares similar concerns and fears. Rachel Carson’s classic environmental study on pesticides inspires a track called Silent Spring, and there is a palpable sense throughout that these meditative threnodies are both personal and political.
Basinski shares with the listener his precious gift for making loss, grief and heartbreak sound euphorically beautiful.