Both William Basinski and Richard Chartier have been digging through their archival matter as of late. In fact, the majority of Basinski's recent output is the result of his discoveries, including his profound Disintegration Loops series. Chartier, meanwhile, based his recent production Archival1992 upon two older pieces evolved into a single minded composition of subtle disquiet. When the two began working on this eponymous collaboration, again they delved into the vaults for inspiration and reworkable materials.
The first of the two lengthy tracks contains elements by Chartier dating from 1991-1992, merged with sympathetic Basinski material that he had been composing for James Elaine. Here, slowly evolving bleak drones give way to similarly constructed forms, sprinkled with low impact fluttering events. Where the first track retains a stoic uniformity through its subtle shiftings, the second flickers and quivers with a comparitively greater flair for the dramatic, thanks to their reworking of Basinski's tape loops, which inject a cyclical movement to the ghostly ambience lying below. Within these filigree wisps of sound, Basinski's pathos laden romanticism matches perfectly with Chartier's spartan reductivism. Hopefully their marraige of unique voices will continue in the future.
Listening to William Basinski + Richard Chartier, two collaborative minimalist pieces by the same two composers, is about as stimulating as watching the sun rise, then set, and with it, your shadow grow and diminish. The two pieces work in that way as a provocative metaphor you donÕt really need to experience to appreciate. Basinski and Chartier rely heavily on minimalism as a sort of literary gesture, and while the result is deeply meditative and at times moving, an overwrought aesthetic belies their faith in the barely perceptible but vaguely beautiful evolution of a few musical elements.
Minimalism as a singular form is rightfully dead, though its influence can be heard in much of the best music being made right now. The problem is, no matter what Basinski and Chartier do, theyfll never best Terry Rileyfs Descending Moonshine Dervishes (not that they shouldnft try). Basinskifs masterful Disintegration Loops series, released last year, is a testament to the evolution of a formal language beyond redundancy. Those four records contain loops recorded in the early 1980s by Basinski. Before, on, and after September 11, 2001, Basinski was undergoing the process of transferring these loops to digital format in his Manhattan apartment. As the short orchestral loops played, the magnetic tapes physically disintegrated, leaving a stunningly beautiful metaphor - an impression of a world disappearing - that works just as well on headphones as on paper.
The low drones and occasional tape hisses on WB + RC are irrevocably majestic in the way good minimalism tends to be. Low, rumbling tones slowly give way to a gently pulsating ambient loop; the two elements pass each other, changing slightly, intersecting at various points until they are momentarily subdued by a jagged rhythmic feedback loop. Over the course of these two long compositions, tones glide over one another like tectonic plates; occasionally one will pierce the surface. This friction, coupled with the clarity and simplicity of the actual sounds, is the principle element at work and creates an atmosphere that is at once dense and light.
Glacial movement, the stretching, suspending, or dissolving of time - these characteristics are endemic to minimalist music and are very much on display in WB + RC, along with the emotive elements that grace Disintegration Loops. The power of much minimalist music, from Reich to Feldman, lies in its concentration on seemingly minute elements. The listener is drawn into a world in which the ratios of everyday life - much chaos and noise, little singularity and silence Š are distilled and inverted. Seeing light as a function of your own shadow, rather than vice-versa. (Alexander Provan)
First comes a low rumble, covering the floor and shaking your ears. Then, all at once, there's a crunching spit, which rises and then levels into a warbling hum. And with that, William Basinski and Richard Chartier's first official collaboration takes flight. It's not really the most exciting beginning for an album - even I'll concede that point. But neither Basinski nor Chartier have ever been about beginnings. No, the key to these two interesting, talented artists is time. Listen for a minute and you'll wonder what the point is; listen for an hour, and you might never want to stop.
After this rather simple beginning to the first of two tracks on William Basinski + Richard Chartier, things definitely pick up. That warbling hum gets progressively stronger and louder, like some bad pasta burning a hole in your intestines. Then, out of that hum comes...birds? Yes, I think it's birds, or at least imaginative imitations of bird sounds, a slowly building squawking flying closer with every oscillation. With these squawks comes a simple synth drone, which mimics the warbling hum only minus the warbling. When the birds go away, the drone stays, grows, builds, alters slightly, and loses some clarity. Noise enters the soundscape momentarily - a few static burps and crinkly stabs. Then the birds return and the drone rises in pitch. Then other drones sink in. Then echoes of the original drone bounce in and out. And and and and..
Well, the song's 20 minutes long, but I've only described the first nine. Take it from me - it gets weirder and better from here on in, as these various sounds mutate, transform, intermingle, and otherwise fuck with your mind. By the end, the song feels haunted with the ghosts and the echoes of dead sounds. It's brilliant, and it's only the first, shorter, work on this album.
The other work is unforgettable. It takes very classical synthesizer melodies and buries them in and around one another, creating something truly creepy. But this isn't a Ligeti's "Adventures" (from the end of 2001) creepy or even a Psycho, ripping the shower curtains with a knife sort of creepy. There are neither any sharp, abrupt moments of terror here, nor are there any slow buildups towards something terrifying. Instead, the creepiness glides in and around the listener slowly, carefully, like a slowly rolling fog. First it seems like nothing, but suddenly it's everywhere and you can't escape. It begins as series of very pleasant, smooth, atmospheric synth lines that bob up and down. But then more of these synth lines are added, some more piercing than the others, some choppier, some louder, and some softer. They all build on one another, wafting back and forth, until, suddenly, your ears are ringing with sounds that don't seem very happy at all, sounds that have suddenly become menacing, dangerous, and scary. And then, the scariest thing happens: the work slows down, the really loud and the really smooth sounds dissipate into the background, and what's left are high pitched wails and low rumbles. These sounds plod on for minute after minute, sometimes growing in strength, sometimes dissipating, until they, too, disappear into nothing (as if they were never there). This is a track that freaks me out every time I hear it. I love it.
This is an impressive work by two of the best electronic artists performing today. It's vastly different from what the two have created separately, yet it meshes their individual styles perfectly. Basinski is known for sweeping, epic ambient works that manage to take simple, repeating sounds and transform them into something grand and wonderful. Chartier, by contrast, takes a lot of little sounds and examines them in all their minute splendor. He likes to play with intensities: shifting from soft to loud, infinitesimal to exponential. On this album, these two styles - grand, sweeping melodies and fluctuating sonic experiments - are combined into something truly unique and truly memorable. This is really impressive stuff. (Michael Heumann)
This first full-length collaboration between soundsmiths William Basinski and Richard Chartier proposes a reappropriation of the past with a glance at things to come. In the course of the two extended pieces (21 and 36 minutes), both artists take turn revisiting old reels of tape and contributing fresh drones. In that regard, the album is to be put alongside Chartier's Archival 1991 CD released on Crouton a few months earlier. The music is not that bleak or Industrial-sounding, but it once again adopts the form of a sustained drone with an analog feel, something listeners of Chartier's more recent work will not immediately identify with him. The first of these two untitled tracks sees Chartier digging up "elements" from 1991-92, while Basinski offers material recorded in 2003 using his trusty Voyetra 8 synthesizer. The piece starts slowly, but eventually fills the whole bass register, with strange voices, like the filtered chatter of animals, populating the middle range. Roles are reversed for the second piece, Chartier providing fresh sonics while Basinski digs through his boxes of tape loops from 1981. This piece has a thinner sound palette. One could hardly call it more minimal (or minimalistic) than the previous track, as they are both considerably bare-boned, but it does focus on more evanescent tones, creating a fragile drone that evolves very slowly and all but disappears for the last six minutes. If the first track can evoke dark pastures and a certain level of disquietude, the second piece is all peaceful and detached. A nice release for the contemplative listener. (Francois Couture)
Things are not always as they seem. If you were to put on this album, a collaboration between experimental musicans William Basinksi and Richard Chartier, you might have the same reaction that we did. It appears that the album begins, drones quite beautifully for a brief period of time, and then ends, leaving us with the thought, "Hey, that was really short! What the hell?" Ah, but not so fast, for the album's running time is actually a full 57 minutes, and the perceived shortness of duration is a result of these two composers' mesmeric abilities!
William Basinski, of course, has explored temporal phenomonology before, most notably through his breathtaking documentation of tape decay on the Disintegration Loops series. While Chartier's ultra-minimalism tend towards stasis, his underappreciated Archival 1991 album imparts a similar slow-motion effect upon the listener. Working together, Basinksi and Chartier add a considerable amount to each other's work; and hopefully, they will be working together again as Basinksi provides an emotional center to Chartier's rationalism, and Chartier offers a reductivist edginess to Basinski's ghostly romanticism. For this album, Basinksi and Chartier present glacially slow shifts between extended passages of synthetic drones, occasionally haunted by shadowy whisps and windswept details. There's very little drama and very little activity, just an incredible piece of minimalism that has the ability to stop time. Recommended.
If you thought a duo effort between these two gentlemen would have confirmed their own styles in parallel ways you're pretty far from the truth, as the two tracks composing this release are so smooth and slow, they almost make an electronic painkiller. Chartier's rationalism gives the music few aleatory chances, privileging well placed elements upon which the mind can watch the surroundings without being disturbed in any way. Basinski's loops and patches - all made on his Voyetra 8 synthesizer - are a sweet impaste of frequencies perfectly at ease in my listening space, gentlly posing around like snowflakes. It's a new interesting direction for both artists and for William in particular, a path nearer to the algid sensibility of the reductionist ambient than to heartbreaking looks into the past. Chartier and Basinski have no formula, just their enormous talent and creative tools producing something that's appealing, impalpable and austere; here, that subtle membrane dividing glow and ice is in the perfect middle. A repeated listening will help discovering new corners of Richard and William's research - and finding out about our reaction.
As a co-inaugural release on Spekk, William Basinski (Raster-Noton, Three Poplars, Durtro) and Richard Chartier (12k/Line, Fallt, Meme) team up on two long and elegant tracks. Originally recorded by Chartier, then sent to Basinski for further development, the two came back together to do a final mix and out came this recording. Basinski has been experimenting with sound back to his days in the 70s as a classically trained clarinetist through his disentegration of loops and commercial entities like Muzak which became sort of a scientific distillation for him. This recording is laden with delicate stratum of prepared tonal fragments, as if you were hiding inside a piano and moving around delicately as not to be heard, and in doing so trembling slightly. Its like some craggy edges of uranium falling in slow-motion through the sound barrier of an unknown galaxy. Quite inspired by light, time and classical music for sure. There is also the feeling that this was something recorded on super 8 film sometime in the 50s and its been in a musty attic for decades collecting dust and various algae. The cover seems to reify my impressions in a molten rust encrusted painting with Rothko-esque subtleties by Chartier (circa 2000). There is a reverence that each of these musicians is paying to one another on these two peculiar untitled tracks. Overall, there are diminutive voices that are mostly undetected in the fleeting background. This is a haunting record of great depth in ambient eccentricity. (TJ Norris)
A new label under the guidance of the excellent Plop distribution in Japan, and they kick off with greatly packed releases (booksized packages containing the CD). And two three great names to start a label with.
Taylor Deupree is of course the main man behind 12K records and himself one of the bigger names in the field of microscopic music. The five tracks on his CD were inspired by his trip to Japan, including a heavy yet gentle snowfall. A snowfall is what Taylor's music is like: sounds are looped - seemingely similar loops, but upon close inspection they appear to be different - and played in a majestical form. Taylor's music can be regarded as ambient, but he uses loops rather than drones. This gives his music a gentle, almost rhythmical touch, while at the same time it spans out over a longer period of time. Things develop in a rather minimal way throughout each track. In 'Midlight' he goes as far as using a female voice sample and one might think that Deupree moves towards the dreaded new age thing, but luckily he stays at the border. This CD continues his work from his later releases on 12K, aswell as style he is releasing on that label. Well-thought and well-crafted electronic music.
The second CD is the result of a collaboration between Richard Chartier and William Basinski. Both of them have gained quite a reputation for their own microsounding work, which, I may add, differs quite a bit from Deupree. Whereas the later works mainly with loops, Chartier and Basinski are more in the areas of drone music. Two lenghty cuts are presented here, and both use lenghty, harmonic drones as the basis of their pieces. The first piece was kind of similar to some of the work produced by Mirror, but with a lighter overall touch, while the second one was maybe also like Mirror, but here the melodic touch was an overall feature. Two pretty strong pieces, I thought, but maybe I didn't expect much else from these drone meisters. (FdW)
Salutiamo con grande piacere la nascita della nipponica Spekk, etichetta che ancor piu della gemella Plop tentera approfondire l'indagine sulle nuove estetiche microsoniche e post-digitali. Manco a dirlo il catalogo viene inaugurato da tre autori americani che da sempre si distinguono per il loro impegno nel settore. Innanzitutto "January" di Taylor Deupree, approfondimento di pratiche e metodi estetici basati sull'apparente ristagno di suoni congelati e granulari, gentili collisioni di loops e microframmenti cui si uniscono nell'occasione a inintelleggibili refoli vocali sussurrati da Sawako e rintocchi di piano elettrico processato, sospesi tra la fragile morbidezza flou di Img_0083 e la pacata austerita colta di Quiet_C. (7/8)
D'impianto piu spettrale il lavoro in collaborazione tra William Basinski e Richard Chartier, inizialmente influenzato dall'installazione di James Elaine "The Garden of Brokenness". Continue colate di suono che vibrano all'unisono e si attraversano in cerchi concentrici dalla aleatoria percezione temporale, quasi un'esperienza tattile e visiva che rimanda alle antiche passioni di Chartier per l'opera di Feldman e Takemitsu, nonche all'idea di arredo acustico di Satie. (7) Nicola Catalano
With great pleasure we welcome the birth of Spekk, a Japanese label which, even more than twin Plop, will try to deepen a survey upon microsound and post-digital new aesthetics. Obviously (?) their catalogue is opened by a three American composers who distinguish theirselves for their very involvement in this field. First of all "January" by Taylor Deupree, a deepening of aesthetic praxis and methods based on the apparent stagnation of frozen sounds, gentle collisions of loops and microfragments which in this occasion have been matched with some unintelligible vocal whispers by Sawako and strokes of a processed electric piano, suspended between the fragile flou delicacy of "Img_0083" and the calm high-brow austerity of "Quiet_C". (7/8)
Of a more "ghastly" nature is the collaborative work of William Basinski and Richard Chartier, at first influenced by an installation of James Elaine called "The Garden of Brokenness". Continuous sound flows vibrating in unison and crossing themselves in concentric circles of an aleatory time perception, almost a tactile experience influenced by an old passion of Chartier towards the work of Feldman and Takemitsu, as well as Satie idea of sound furniture. (7) Nicola Catalano
Die beiden groben Herren der nahezu unsichtbaren Gerauschmusik geben sich hier ein Stelldichein, wie es subtiler und schoner nicht hatte sein konnte. Zwei langgezogene Stucke stapeln in Zeitlupe fernab erdachte Klangturme aufeinander, die sich fast gegenseitig paralysieren und dadurch Zeit nur noch unmerklich nach vorne gleiten kann. Wenn allerdings alles irgendwann zum Stehen kommt, klingt alleine euer Herz weiter und das bleibt unabdingbar essentielle Realitat. Die Musik findet woanders statt, ganz woanders, und zwar im Niemandsland zwischen Traum und Nirgendwo, eben da, wo geduldige Engel sich vor Freude die Finger lecken. (Ed ****)
Two great men of a nearly invisible noise music do meet here in a way which could hardly be of more subtleness or beauty. Two lengthy pieces building up imaginary towers of sound in slow motion, almost paralyzing each other, allowing time only to slip by without recognition. Once the music has stopped, all you will hear is the sound of your heart beating which is, of course, nothing but quintessential reality. The music happens somewhere else, somewhere in nomansland, between dream and nowhere, in a place where patient angels lick their fingers with bliss. (THANKS to stephan mathieu for the translation)
Known in the international electronic music scene as "Mondii" (with an album release on Hefty), and as the man behind Japan's arguably best distributor of that type of music, Plop, Nao Sugimoto launches a new label! As if the birth of Spekk wasn't reason enough to direct eyes and ears to Tokyo once again, the label kicks off with a double whammy from 12k man Taylor Deupree, and William Basinski + Richard Chartier. Containing two long tracks that were realized by matching sonic creations by cross-genre artists Basinski and Chartier, especially the latter is a refreshing album that comes -- like Deupree's -- in a beautifully made case in book format. Mixing 12k/line artist Chartier's sounds with William Basinski's tape loops made between 1981 and 2003, this pleasantly listenable release cuts a bridge from Brian Eno's first ambient efforts or David Sylvian's installation sountracks, to contemporary sound art. (Andreas ****)