Stylus is on vacation today, but we won't be taking President's day off. See you Monday!

William Basinski
Silent Night


t’s hard to call a person you’ve never met in real life a true friend, but for someone who has so much correspondence online, it’s not hard for me to extend that title to Nick Kilroy. Label head of Kin Records, he helped put together and release my favorite record of 2004, Junior Boys’ Last Exit. He was one of the kindest, most enthusiastic supporters of all sorts of endeavors, Stylus among them. He also died earlier this week.

William Basinski’s music has been described by Stylus writer Michael Heumann as some of the most elegiac and haunting ambient work put to tape. The Disintegration Loops, in particular, vaulted beyond the traditional idea of ambient music into something altogether different due to its 9/11 back-story and the musical results. Silent Night doesn’t appear to have the same sort of attendant narrative defining its results, except the fact that it was created entirely with the Voyetra 8 synthesizer.

After having Silent Night for a month, unwrapped, I finally pulled it out this week in preparation for a possible review. I began to listen to it and, as I was in the process, found that Nick had died. Time stopped for a moment, although Basinski’s lengthy piece did not. It had been gradually building to what seemed like little effect for fifty-five of its sixty-minute running time. As the main melodic theme began to fade out, I realized that there was nothing left but digital clutter, interacting with one another aimlessly, with no real connection. It seemed as though the melody had left too quickly, with no explanation, leaving what was once the background to become foreground. To attempt to make sense of what had defined it for so long. But the swarm of insectile buzzing quickly cohered and built to a climax until it, too, was gone forever—without fadeout or explanation.

The body’s internal clock is an amazing thing. Often times, after rising in the morning at the same time each day for a week, the body automatically does it for you—without need for alarm or reminder. It’s one of the most tangible reminders that there is, indeed, a natural rhythm to the human body. One that it is innate and is probably beyond our understanding. The curious thing about some of the most emotional, and best, music is that it has a unique power to completely upset that rhythm—distort, distend, and dissolve it. This release, and the many that Nick was passionate about, have that same effect. He will be missed.

Reviewed by: Todd Burns

Reviewed on: 2005-02-10

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