Albums of the Decade: William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops (2062 Records, 2002)


Over the years this record has become increasingly more difficult for me to come to terms with and talk about; it’s the polar opposite of virtually every record I’ve ever listened to in that regard, but when you consider that the whole thematic approach and significance of the Loops revolves around life and death and entropy, it only makes sense that the older one gets the more complex the feelings towards it become.

When I first heard this record almost 6 years ago I had gone 18 years without my life intersecting with death, which is, looking back on things, I suppose rather fortuitous. In those intervening years though I’ve now had the misfortune to see the departure of two grandparents, one only a few months ago, and the loss of one of my oldest friends when my cat passed. Thus, I am a very changed man to when I first heard the Loops, back when I was too young to understand the true breadth of emotional complexity that death brings, no first hand experience with which to give this record a sense of power, so little awareness of my (or anyone’s) mortality.

I feel like I’ve come to know every inch of its destruction so intimately that I no longer know how to put it into words, how it seems to bob and swell in strength, how the drum strokes gently pad the interim space between each loop. “dlp 1.1” is somehow magisterial in its death throes, this almost ghostly, orchestral, 8 second sequence of smeared melody exuding a staunch and resolute attitude as it slowly erodes into nothing. I know the contours of its melody and its subtle textural variances with the same intimacy that I know the faces of friends and loved ones; it’s an entity in of itself, so organic in its own destruction that it feels alive. But it is also me, it’s also you, it’s the shape of our lives wrought in sound, every second that we listen another moment closer to our inevitable demise, closer to the death of another someone we know, spelling out the timeline of our existence.

And we, like the sacrificial tape that was forced endlessly onwards in the creation of the Loop, are bound to our course, there’s no escape. Yet there’s no sense of pressure or resignation or melancholia here, not to my ears; no, the Loops turn over in their same soft pleasantry forever, its faux horns suspended in a sea of reverb and cassette fuzz plodding on unwaveringly even in the face of their own dissolution. We don’t know what happens in the Great Beyond, let’s leave that speculation to the philosophers and metaphysicists; all we know, all we have, is in the here and now, so let’s just keep getting on with that.