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The Clocktower at the Beach (1979)





> Composer William Basinski presents a formative archival work from 1979 on LINE. <

William Basinski is an artist that needs no introduction. His looping, elegiac works are hypnotic and form a cornerstone of 21st Century avant-garde and ambient music.

‘The Clocktower at the Beach’ is a previously unreleased 42-minute archival work composed and recorded in 1979 during his time living in San Francisco. At times faint, and other times roaring, this sprawling, foggy drone is a tumult of ebb and flow.

Composed from tape loops of original night shift factory recordings and broken 1950s televisions—rescued from the street by his partner, artist James Elaine—in their sparse Haight Street apartment, ‘The Clocktower at the Beach' is one of Basinski's earliest and eeriest works.

Reflecting on how this particular work informed his future sound explorations and compositions: "Having the Norelco Continental reel-to-reel decks was instrumental in so much of my early work. With four speeds, these stalwart workhorses helped me to discover hidden, unheard sounds. My magic machines. This piece was one of my earliest drone pieces. Each of my pieces is a singular experiment that starts with some kind of spark, but with 'Clocktower' I was most encouraged to finally pursue long-form works that create space and distort time."

Engaged by all of the used records Elaine would bring home from his record store job, Basinski proclaims: "You name it, Jamie had it or got it... immediately! My musicology masterclass mentor and first champion, James Elaine."

In the same orbit as Somei Satoh's 'Emerald Tablet' (1978), Jean-Claude Eloy's 'Gaku-No-Michi' (1979), and Eliane Radigue's series of late 1960s-70s feedback works, Basinski's 'The Clocktower at the Beach' is like a seashore Giorgio de Chirico, a mysterious empty crepuscule painted in sound.

William Basinski has previously released two collaborative works with Richard Chartier on LINE: ‘Untitled 1-3’ (2008) and ‘Aurora Liminalis’ (2013). 'The Clocktower at the Beach’ is his first release on LINE in a decade.


William Basinski (b.1958) is a classically trained musician and composer who has been working in experimental media for over 40 years in NYC and California. Employing obsolete technology and analogue tape loops, his haunting and melancholy soundscapes explore the temporal nature of life and resound with the reverberations of memory and the mystery of time. His epic 4-disc masterwork, 'The Disintegration Loops' received international critical acclaim and was chosen as one of the top 50 albums of 2004 by Pitchfork Media. The Temporary Residence deluxe LP box-set reissue from 2012 was awarded best re-issue of the year and a score of 10 on Pitchfork.

Orchestral transcriptions of 'The Disintegration Loops' by Maxim Moston have been performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Queen Elizabeth Hall (London) and La Batie Festival (Geneva, Switzerland), Dark Mofo Festival (Hobart, Tasmania), the Pitchfork Midwinter Festival (Chicago) with the Chicago Philharmonic, the Barbican Centre (London) with the London Contemporary Orchestra, and most recently at Le Lieu Unique (Nantes, France) with Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire.

Installations and films made in collaboration with artist-filmmaker, James Elaine have been presented in festivals and museums internationally, and his concerts are presented to sold out crowds around the world. Basinski was chosen by Music Director, Anohni to create music for the Robert Wilson opera, 'The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic' which had its world premiere at the Manchester International Festival in July 2011 and toured Europe in 2012 and North America in 2013.

In 2020, Basinski and Preston Wendel released a surprise new jazzy record under the name SPARKLE DIVISION, with special guests such as the late Henry Grimes on upright bass & others. SPARKLE DIVISION'S new album,'FOXY!' will be released on Temporary Residence, Ltd. in 2023.

Basinski's solo work, 'Lamentations' was released in 2020 and his collaborative album ' . . . on reflection ' with British sound artist Janek Schaefer in 2022, both on Temporary Residence, Ltd. Most recently a cover version of David Bowie's 'Subterraneans' with Alva Noto and Martin L. Gore of Depeche Mode was released on Noton, Germany.


released March 3, 2023

instrumentation: sausage clip factory, portable battery operated Radio Shack cassette recorder, broken 50's b & w TV's found on the street, used Norelco Continental reel-to-reel, used tape.

cover image: "Offshore 2", 2022 by James Elaine (acrylic and metallic paints, graphite, razor cuts on board, 16.5" x 11.5")

Mastered by: Preston Wendel at Arcadia West, Los Angeles.

Special thanks to Aunt Maggie, James Elaine, Richard Chartier, Gary Wright and Preston Wendel for all being a part of making my “de Chirico on the Beach, Bikini Island, Tik Tok, the Doomsday Clock" available, Lord Help Us!

copyright 2023 LINE
published 2023 Musex International (BMI)



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LINE Los Angeles, California

Richard Chartier's LINE publishes editions documenting compositional & installation works by international sound artists & composers exploring the aesthetics of minimalism.

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