William Basinski - Lamentations
Nov 13, 2020
Lord, see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for I have rebelled against you. In the streets the sword kills, and at home there is only death. - Lamentations 1:20

William Basinski’s “Lamentations” is a nearly hour-long collection of tracks, ranging from 1 to 11 minutes- a Pandora’s box of grief and decay made of tape loops and studies from Basinski’s archives dating back to half a century ago. This album is most reminiscent of Everywhere At The End Of Time, to the point where I felt a lot of what I felt while listening to that record- the same uneasiness and anxiety I felt while going through that project showed up here too. Extremely distorted, pitched sound effects, vocal and string samples fill this record’s length, and although this was a decidedly less engaging and horrifying experience than EATEOT was (and slightly more obnoxious), this was still a decent project.

The record’s first cut, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, was a good introduction to this LP, with heavily distorted and pitched church bells in the mix, and I immediately got a Caretaker vibe from this track. However, the next track, “The Wheel of Fortune”, was much stronger. Although it was incredibly repetitive (a common theme between these tracks), its use of samples to create an atmosphere is top-notch, and this song almost feels like the acceptance of death coming. “O, My Daughter, My Sorrow”, is the standout of this project, though. Heavily-warped strings that could’ve been pulled straight out of EATEOT’s Stage 3 cover the song, and harrowing vocals that nearly get lost in the mix slowly get louder as the track goes on. The singing really has strong emotional tension, like somebody crying hysterically over a hard loss, and this is one of the most horrifying cuts on the album. Some other standouts are “Please, This S--t Has Got To Stop”, which introduces glitches into the mix that somehow make the song even more ominous and terrifying, and the following “Fin” is a near-perfect closer with nothing but vinyl crackles, glitches, and the occasional but regular shot of distorted sound. “Punch and Judy” felt like some sort of calm yet still extremely painful hell, and “Transfiguration” also made me incredibly unsettled with its sound palette. However, the rest of the album isn’t nearly as interesting. “Paradise Lost”, the third track on the tracklisting, sounded just like the first 2 tracks, with nothing interesting differentiating it. “Passio” felt like a loop of the same few notes for multiple minutes, “All These Too, I, I Love” went way too long, and “Silent Spring” sounded like nothing at all. If someone held a gun to my head and asked me to name one thing from that track, I’d be dead by now- there is truly nothing that can be made out from it, and whereas that was a good thing in EATEOT, it isn’t exactly a good thing here.

Overall, this album is a bit of a mixed bag, with the experience never being broken but the quality varying. If you would like to listen to a shortened, slightly less engaging version of EATEOT, I would highly recommend this record, or if EATEOT didn’t unsettle you at all and you want something like it to study or focus, I’d also recommend this. However, it’s rendered inessential by The Caretaker, in my opinion. Still quite a good record, though, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t upset me at times. Not a lot of music can do that.

Standout- O, My Daughter, My Sorrow
Best tracks- The Wheel of Fortune, Punch and Judy, Transfiguration, Please, This S--t Has Got To Stop, Fin
Worst track- Silent Spring

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