William Basinski’s evocative tape art

141110_r25736-320-439Sasha Frere-Jones at The New Yorker:

Basinski’s music is difficult to classify. Minimalist composers and sampling artists are related, but only somewhat. His loops are being voiced neither by humans—who repeat figures in a way that involves a fairly high level of variation—nor by digital devices like samplers and software programs, which come close to no variation at all. Basinski’s music is based on the flutter in the machine. Digital technology flattened out the analog machine: tape-deck speeds vary, but the speed of iTunes doesn’t. Basinski’s innovation was to step back not a hundred years, and pick up a banjo or a steel guitar, but maybe forty or so years, and find the organic change—the aging, if you will—at the heart of early audio machinery. Basinski’s loops are defined by the fact that machines are always in the process of failing, and that change itself is a form of composition. Like hip-hop producers, who develop sample banks of favored snares and hi-hats from old songs, Basinski has built a career from fragments of thirty-year-old tape.

The changes in his loops are infinitesimal and almost imperceptible, very close to the adjustments a musician might make when repeating a phrase, but slightly more dependable. It’s a loose repetition: a train going across the tracks, the sound of coins dropping into a farebox on a city bus, the flutter of an oscillating fan in summer.

more here.