The thing about drone ambient music is not the sound itself, not the humming but what’s inside that, the permutations of the sound, the rhythms from the echoes, the ebbs and flows of that, and remembering, listening to it again.
Whether it’s Ekca Liena, Misleading Structures, Fripp & Eno or William Basinski, the message is always the same: it’s the sound within the sound, the fuel not for writing contrivances but for the more elemental thing.
Often I get stuck. I don’t know how the room is – the stairway or carpet, the door – or what a character sees – the wallpaper, the light from the kitchen – or what she thinks – a dull pain in her calf, a memory of a first-grade teacher – and sit and stare, trying to think it through. Music gets me out. William Basinski and offthesky never fail. William Basinki’s Disintegration Loops – literally the sound of a loop of electronic music slowly disintegrating into other sounds – rises and falls, thick like an ocean.
The front door has been left open, only just, the chain casting a long jeweled shadow on the trim.There is an old wooden banister on the stairs; a narrow carpet runs up it, rolling vines and roots, worn blue, a corner of it bunched at the bottom. The third-last step squeaks. Jason Corder’s musical project offthesky is more immediate, starting engines and building long tenuous chords, moving relentlessly to the precipice.
She has her keys, holding them low in her hand. She has forgotten something. She waits but can’t remember. She opened the door. Yes, she just did that. And she came in. She needed to…she can’t remember. She goes up the stairs slowly, pausing on the third step.And remembered, the moment, only ten minutes ago, that she had stepped off the pavement, her feet on the cracked dirt, the leaves and her shadow there, all of the water now gone, from the river, the path and benches immersed, the stillness, and now back. And she was here. She had liked that.*This blog written to William Basinski’s dlp 1.1 & offthesky’s lossless
My Bloody Valentine released a new album this spring, mbv. It is a haunting offering of distorted, crazed music, much like their great Loveless LP from 22 years back. I listened to the new album a few times and became obsessed with the second last track, Nothing Is, which I put on repeat and listened to 300-400 more times. I have come to listen to nothing but this song of 3 1/2 minutes – whenever I write, workout, or do anything with music. I’m listening to it right now.
I must admit to a history of obsessive music listening. My housemates in college stole the fuse from my stereo because of my addiction to The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station. I’ve obsessed over all sorts of music – NIN, Aimee Mann, Low, Fripp & Eno, William Basinski, Jesus Christ Superstar – often just a song at a time, and that over and over again. I was the perfect audience for Ragnar Kjartansson’s 12-hour performance pieceBliss, where the same 4-minute section was repeated again and again and again.It’s like a trap or a crutch or a refuge or just something I like too much, and I won’t stop until there is nothing left and I just can’t listen to it again…for months, if not years, and then just might start all over again.