In 2004, the Canadian film The Saddest Music in the World featured musicians from around the world competing in a contest to crown the creator of the saddest work. There is no doubt that if such a competition really existed, American composer William Basinski would be the one to beat. Although the Houston-born artist is known for his impersonal and decorative music, he has succeeded in creating ambient music that can bring tears to your eyes.
More than just an atmosphere designer, Basinski knows how to give his music its own signature sound. Fans will find themselves on charted ground with these Lamentations. Especially since their author uses the same process that made him famous with his 2002 release Disintegration Loops, once again using analog tapes on which are engraved works he recorded in the past – the oldest dating back to 1979. Basinski manipulates these old tapes as he sees fit, drawing elements from them which he plays in loops and superimposes, generating an auditory palimpsest in which fuzzy melodic forms move beneath layers of drones and reverberation.
With Lamentations, Basinski demonstrates that he’s far from having exhausted the resources of his art and gives birth to one of the most touching albums of his career. The black waves that roll over “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, the opening track of the record, break into foam on the heart of the listener, who risks being swept away by so much melancholy. Fortunately, a human song emerges from the waves on three of the pieces on the programme. These siren voices rising above the dark tide will offer comfort to the souls who venture into these dismal waters. In this world of ours, which is losing its bearings, this record is a buoy to hold on to.