Review: The Ominous, Yet Beautiful Ambient Dread of William Basinski’s ‘The Wheel Of Fortune’

William Basinski | The Wheel Of Fortune (latest single)| Temporary Residence

Release Date: 21 October, 2020

Lamentations Release Date: 13 November, 2020

Known as one of the most prolific experimental composers and artists throughout his outstanding and highly iconic career spanning decades; William Basinski perhaps needs very little introduction when it comes to the impact of his works on the music world.

The classically trained musician has consistently been admired for his experimentation when it comes to composition; especially that of ambient works, a genre in which establishing oneself as one of the most well-known artists in the sector is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish. Basinski’s ability to with dark hues of textures and a plethora of tones makes for his signature sound, experimenting since his early years in a manner that allows for pure emotion to shine through; often as a documentation of the artist’s own lamentations.

Speaking of ‘Lamentations’ his upcoming album of the same name is scheduled to be released on November 13th via Temporary Residence; his work stems from myriad of archives – dating all the way back to 1979 – in which Basinski has constructed a full LP from bits and pieces of studies and tape loops: a whopping four decades of experimentation sculpted into a one coherent LP. With the release of his newest single off the album entitled ‘The Wheel Of Fortune’, Basinski’s ambient prowess as well as his hauntingly emotional perspective is an anticipated look in his upcoming release.

Whether an intentional reference or not – as it can relate to many clear and more mainstream interpretations such as gambling – ‘The Wheel Of Fortune’ is also the name of a Tarot card, which is the tenth card within the Major Arcana – some of the most telling set of cards in the practice of Tarot reading, a spiritual experience for some that see it as a source of “fortune telling”.

For those unfamiliar, the practice revolves around using a deck of specialised cards in order to receive clarity on the past, present or future; with each card representing an aspect of a person’s life or perspective which they are attempting to understand, or receive guidance from. The Wheel Of Fortune, just as in gambling, can either bring about an outcome perceived as positive, or perceived as negative. Yet the true nature of this is that, as the wheel continues to spin, no matter what it may bring – the outcome is completely out of our control, and everything it may bring is ultimately temporary.

The Wheel Of Fortune‘ immediately opens with a deep-seated feeling of dread; drenched in the reverb, the ghostly atmospheric soundscape brings to mind images of a post-apocalyptic realm, filled with shadows and phantoms – a decaying world, with once lush landscapes wilting and fading in colour. The looping melody shrouded in midnight gloom repeats throughout the album, with a sense of grief hanging over the track as Basinski layers textural electronics in an ominous drive.

The tone of ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ manages to bring rich imagery to mind, a narrative formed in a way that’s unnervingly relatable – however, despite the nervous tension, we are reminded that the wheel of fortune will always continue to spin. Even in the midst of a painful reality, the temporary nature of our experiences will always be just that – even in a dying world, the possibility of starting anew within a flourishing new life will forever be not only an option, but a guarantee.

Stream & Purchase The Wheel Of Fortune by William Basinski
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Rating: 7.5 / 10

Feature Image: William Basinski Press via Bandcamp