William Basinski – Nocturnes

The opener Nocturnes – weighing in at over 40 minutes - got me through my shirts and the girlfriend’s dresses. The second track, The Trail of Tears, saw me finish off the other nicks and nacks and gave me time to put the ironing board away.

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 I already know as I type these words how fucking gauche this review is going to sound. In my defence, with modern classical pieces, you really only have two choices on the table: either come across like you’re at John Cage’s house arguing over a minor point of musical theory using words that would normally provoke public assault, (and of course knowing what you’re on about even if no-one else doesn’t), or spit out a right pile of impressionistic nonsense that hopefully carries your enthusiasm for the record over. Whilst sounding like a gushing ignoramus. It’s going to have to be the latter in this case.

 So. I stuck this on the stereo whilst ironing and didn’t really check the contents. I’d heard of Basinski and know that it’s my duty to check out The Disintegration Loops at some point. In any case this record has one of those covers that convey nothing outside that it could be a “serious”, minimalist listen and chez nous, there are piles of records with covers like this, after a while you tend to stick ‘em on and see what happens.

The opener Nocturnes – weighing in at over 40 minutes got me through my shirts and the girlfriend’s dresses. The second track, The Trail of Tears, saw me finish off the other nicks and nacks and gave me time to put the ironing board away. A good 70 minutes, where you are effectively enveloped in a quiet, pulsating world where some beautiful passages of music – especially in the opener, where the treated keys have this ethereal, mystical quality and the melody patterns evoke the soft patter of rain on leaves in a summer garden - have the strength and guile to carry you through the allotted time.

But I suppose that’s in the nature of this sort of music, it’s there to create a sort of bubble to inhabit, a place where you can switch off a lot of your sensory faculties and allow complete surrender to suggestion. The tones are warm, it’s a very sensual listen, the notes are caressed rather than laid out in sequence (it’s obvious that loops are being used in the opener and as such there’s always an element of chance.) But there’s also a distinct feel of narrative: you can feel the composer at work here; it’s not a piece where it’s down to you to arrange the reaction.   

So: I really recommend it. It’s fab. I’m just sorry I had to come out with a load of waffle and mention my ironing in the process.