With a show at Jazzhouse sold out a week in advance, William Basinski’s place in contemporary avant-garde music clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed with the local audience.
Opening the night was Danish sound artist Lars Lundehave Hansen. His equipment was set up next to Basinski’s centre-stage desk, on a small round table covered with a sumptuous red lit tablecloth. Taking the place at the table dressed in a sleek suite and occasionally waving his hand through the air, Hansen gave away an impression of a magician. His music, however, did not quite live up to its magical setting. In spite of some interesting moments, the opening set was mostly made up of decent if slightly dull and rather conventional drone.
Having seen William Basinski perform a few times before, what first struck me as unusual (apart from his rockstar looks that one can apparently never get used to) was the absence of the projection screen. In place of sedative sea-like projections screened on Basinski’s previous tour, there were lights shining around him in different colours and patterns. Change can be good, of course, but bright, lollipop lights were hardly a match for the comforting ambiance coming from the PA.
Putting the unanticipated visual component aside, Basinski’s performance was pretty much all one would expect it to be. That is not to say it can be described in terms of good and bad; it was simply true to the music he’s known for. With two portable reel-to-reel tape decks as his faithful companions, Basinski patiently highlights the gradual decay of sound. Short sounds from the tape are elongated in feedback loops washing over the space, drawing the listeners into meditation.
In a live setting, Basinski’s familiar approach and fragile sound forms feel even more tangible than on recordings. The general mood is rattled by the occasional look to the stage in all its light-show glory. Curiously, that only seems to underline the point – this is the sound of all things inevitably fading away, no matter how shiny they may appear.