Decaying tapes and a true American eccentric.
Ever since the invention of magnetic tape, artists have used recordings, edits and loops to upend our sense of time and place. Following the experiments of the European and American avant-garde in the '50s and '60s, few modern artists have struck a nerve using tape techniques like William Basinski. While artists ditched tape for synths in the '70s and '80s, Basinski was building an archive of transmissions in a New York loft, combining looped melodic fragments with shortwave static and city sounds seeping through the windows. Juxtaposing machine mechanics with the sonic blur of everyday life, his music achieves a degree of pathos that's rare in experimental music.
Nowhere is this more evident than The Disintegration Loops. The four albums have dogged Basinski since their release in the early 2000s and became something of an emblem for his techniques and the possibilities of so-called "ambient" music in general. But as Matt McDermott found out at RA's recent Community Connections event series in LA, Basinski has been traversing the nooks and crannies of American counterculture for decades, overcoming years of critical indifference to become the celebrated artist we know today.