William Basinski – A Shadow in Time

ashadowWarning: Do not listen if you are in the mood to rock.

Hold on to those asses, we’re going for a ride. 

Basinski deals in ambient tape processing music? Okay, that sounds fucked up, let’s try that again. Back on September 11, 2001, Basinski was sitting on his rooftop in Brooklyn listening to old ambient tape loops he made, when he noticed that the tapes were gradually deteriorating as they passed the tape head. They were slowly being ripped apart by time. He decided to record this deterioration process when the unthinkable happened. While looking out on a New York in shambles, recordings he made 20 years earlier were slowly breaking apart. For some reason it seemed to fit. Or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York thought so 10 years later when they played this recording to mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. These deteriorating tapes became a symbol of mourning and passing time, something slowly getting stripped away and never being the same again. 

So, the day Basinski found out David Bowie died, he took out a deteriorating tape that his roommate’s cat had chewed up, and started to record it as it passed through the tape head. The first track on this album is called “For David Robert Jones”, Bowie’s real name. The art is bizarre, I’ll give you that, but if you listen you’ll notice it just makes sense. Time passes differently when listening to these tracks. It’s kinda the perfect music for the end of the world. I thought the symbol of a slowly dying tape loop wouldn’t fit at first when I saw the track for Bowie being that death is an ending, I even had a thought that some piece of shit artist was trying to profit off of tragedy and death, but I didn’t feel the same way after I listened to it.

There are no lyrics or anything to analyze, but there is a saxophone loop slowly going away on the first track that sounds really similar to the sax on Bowie’s “Low”. Beautiful homage. Remember, Basinski only controls the process of how these songs are recorded, he doesn’t really “create” it himself. Thus, process music. The ambiance in the end is contemplative, nostalgic, and introspective.

The reason I put this on is because I fucking love Bowie. He, as well as others, were a big deal for me when I was a teen. The dude could wear an eyepatch for looks and everyone, not only accepted it, but thought it was cool as fuck. Listen to Bowie long enough and you’ll feel like you’re able to do anything. You’ll think that anyone who isn’t 100% themselves are fucking losers, and you’ll have the power to back up your claim cause David-Fucking-Bowie is on your team. Whom does the other team have? Tom Cruise? Kim Kardashian? Ya, good luck with all of that. I’ll happily wear the eyepatch. Plus, when this album came out in 2017, Bowie himself would’ve been happy with it. It reminds me of what can be done in the face of tragedy, or at any point in life. Art can be made to help us process the shit and grim of life. And once the shit is over, there’s something there in the end to look back on and remember. Who knows, maybe you’ll even have a morning coffee one day, look back on it, and smile like I am right now. 

“Some people feel the rain; others just get wet” Unknown (most likely the king of the road himself, Roger Miller).

 

 

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