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William Basinski

You're digging through your closet or drawer, sifting through all the years of junk, and you find something. You thought that Bell Biv DeVoe "Poison" single was a goner, but there it is. You brush off the layer of dust and pop it in your car stereo later that day, but it sounds like the tape has turned into molasses. Bummer.

Now, imagine you'd actually composed music some years ago, forgot about it, and, to your surprise, found the tapes buried in your attic. You remember recording the music as a young, struggling artist, and as you pop that baby in the stereo to take in a bit of aural nostalgia, you realize the tapes are disintegrating as you listen. Your past is being erased before your eyes and ears. That's what happened to New York musician William Basinski during the summer of 2001. After recovering a series of 20-year-old tape loops he'd had in storage, he began trying to digitize them. What he heard as the tape spun 'round and 'round was the sound of it disappearing. As it played, pieces of the tape's magnetic material were being chipped away by the reader head, warping random portions of the recording. The result is an eerie yet utterly entrancing orchestra of otherworldly, somnambulant sounds that drift in and out; sounds that tiptoe around the house like ghosts. The last 15 minutes or so of the recording devolve into wisps of barely perceptible silence, and the fact that you just listened to the same loop over and over doesn't matter. The intrigue here comes from trying to grasp the sounds that once were someone's compositions and now are intangible drones. There is no high-tech gadgetry, no knob-tweaking, no glossy production team. Basinski merely used the sound of time passing to create something completely original. -- Audra Schroeder

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