high-functioning fuckup


i’ll take a break in the “action” from the La Mano history (which i’ve vowed will be completed by the end of this month) to rave for a moment about something i’ve been listening to pretty obsessively: The Disintegration Loops.

some of you know the story, some don’t. i didn’t.

the story is this: minimalist/ avant composer William Basinski pulls out some old tape loops he made in the 80’s– i think i heard it was just pulled from easy listening music; determines that the life of these loops are nearing an end, so begins transferring/ recording them onto cd’s. he fires one up hits record, and goes and does something. comes back in a while and notices the loops sound different. then notices that the iron oxide is slowly eroding and degrading with each progressive loop, gathering in a little pile next to the tape head. the tape is dying, the music is dying, and he’s recording its death. and it’s very, very beautiful. some loops take an hour to fall apart, some 20 minutes.

he continues with the tapes; he’s living in NYC, and during this time (apologies if i’m not getting the timeline correct) the twin towers fall.


i read a review of the Disintegration Loops on Pitchfork, where it receives the highest marks and is discussed like something everyone already knows about. not me. sounds interesting, and worth checking out, but let’s face it: this sounds like a one trick pony, something academic and “interesting”. something you’d stroke your chin about and say “hm” (which is fine; there’s music and art i like along those lines, that provide more a kick in the head than the gut).

upon listening, this stuff is anything but academic. in fact, this is some of the most beautiful and affecting music i’ve heard in my life: it’s haunting, wonderful, sad and triumphant, all at the same time. i can’t accurately describe what makes these sounds…what they are. there’s no real reason that, essentially, the same 3-second loop playing for 20 minutes should have any real emotional depth at all, much less anything this powerful.

this work makes me proud to be a human being, in (again) some way that i can’t explain. and i think i’d feel that way even if i DIDN’T know the context in which they were created. but i do, and now you do too.

my pal Jeremy put out this elegant, gorgeous box set on his label, Temporary Residence. you should buy it from him as soon as possible (in all honesty, i first heard these Loops on Spotify, and then they were taken off, to which i say: well done. we don’t have time for the Spotify conversation right now, though…). an incredible vinyl set, as well as a more inexpensive 5-cd set.

i want to put in a special recommendation for cartoonists/ artists on this one: listening to music while you work can be a real distraction– you (ok, i do, anyway…) claim it’s “background” but you end up actively listening to/engaging it, instead of…doing that with what you’re actually working on. the movements in the loops are so slow and organic that…it’s great stuff to work to. i don’t use the word “meditative” often, but i will here. you don’t listen to it so much as swim in it.

work on the new Recidivist had come to a grinding, painful, full stop in the past couple months. i got these in the mail, and that is over. consider that a testimonial, in more ways than one.

best, zak.

(and while i’m at it, Tim Hecker’s new record is unbelievable, too. totally different in tone to these Loops, but stunningly good. go buy it from Kranky)


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