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CD Feature/ William Basinski: "El Camino Real"

img  Tobias

William Basinski recently confessed that his doubts as to whether he could “get away with it” were the main reason why the world has had to wait for years for his looped memories to surface – “it” of course meaning repeating a single passage seemingly ad infinitum and shifting the aspect of development towards the audience’s inner pereceptive organs. And yet, when now listening to an album like “El Camino Real”, recorded live in Los Angeles in Summer of last year and containing a single track which again takes this principle to a fourty-nine-minute extreme, I never, not even for a single moment, found myself thinking:that this were too much or too radical or too self-indulgent. And right there lies the key to understanding Basinki’s work in general and this, his 13th album, in particular.

One naturally isn’t a virgin any more. After “The Disintegration Loops” and especially after “Water Music” and “The Garden of Brokenness” you can not pretend to be genuinely shocked by “El Camino Real”, nor can its dimensions swallow you as fully as, say, the hour-long moment of bliss “Silent Night”. The ears of the initiated have been sensitised by spinning Basinski’s music in a new set of home-made loops, each one trying to recapture the magic of the first one like a grown-up buying himself the candy he used to love so much as a child. And yet, when I think back to my first exposure to his oeuvre, my first reaction was not one of incomprehension or alienation, but of an immediate feeling of relating to it and of wondering why noone else had come up with this before. Basinski’s music is not taking us to new places, it is leading us to old and familiar ones with an intensity we thought we had lost after our youth. Which means that as idiosyncratic and personal as his releases may be, they hit upon something universal, burried deep inside us only waiting to be concealed. One has to bear that in mind when looking at “El Camino Real”, a work that has obvious similarities with previous compositions and sounds like the emancipated aftermath of a “Disintegration Loop”-era track. A stretched-out motive of two yearning notes, sighing like a sorrowful choir and fraying out into fragile, friable frazzles at its end runs through the entire piece, occasionally loosing its shine and sinking into a slumber, but always returning with triumphant gleam, while being counterpointed by a downward-bound theme of marimba-like timbre. After a phase of getting used to this environment, one can lean back and wait for the “click” in the brain, the instance that your attention starts carrying itself. And this moment is sure to come, if only after you’ve stopped the playback and find the music continuing to resonate in your head.

Of all Basinski albums of the past years, this is one of the warmest and that may hint at the fact that he is feeling more comfortable and self-assured than ever. It also points to a second important aspect of his music, next to the one of nostalgia, namely the notion of absolute safeness. “El Camino Real” is like a deep embrace with both eyes closed, like a dream filled with the complete certainty that everything will be okay. As long as he keeps dreaming that reassuring dream, we will glady listen to him gloriously  “getting away with it” at least a thousand times more.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: William Basinski / 2062 Recordings
Homepage: William Basinski at MySpace

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