The Disintegration Loops

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The Disintegration Loops
Studio album by
Recorded1982, August – September 11, 2001[1]
GenreTape music, ambient, drone
Length74:28 (I)
75:00 (II)
72:28 (III)
74:26 (IV)
296:22 (I-IV)
William Basinski chronology
The Disintegration Loops
The River

The Disintegration Loops is a series of four albums by the American avant-garde composer William Basinski, released in 2002 and 2003.[2] The albums comprise tape loop recordings played for extended time, with noise and cracks increasing as the tape deteriorated. Basinski discovered the effect while attempting to transfer his earlier recordings to digital format.

The completion of the recording coincided with the 9/11 attacks, which Basinski witnessed from his rooftop in Brooklyn; the artwork features Basinski's footage of the New York City skyline in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse. He dedicated the music to the victims of the attacks.[3]

The Disintegration Loops gathered critical acclaim. It was initially released in four parts, and was reissued in 2012 on its tenth anniversary as a nine-LP box set. Two orchestral renditions have also been performed and were included in the reissue.


In the 1980s, Basinski recorded from found sound sources, shortwave radio and delay systems, influenced by musicians such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno.[3] Decades later, while transferring the recordings from magnetic tape to digital format, Basinski found that the tape had deteriorated; as it passed the tape head, the ferrite detached from the plastic backing. He allowed the loops to play for extended periods as they deteriorated further, with increasing gaps and cracks in the music. He further treated the sounds with a spatializing reverb effect.[4][5]

Basinski finished the project the morning of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, and sat on the roof of his apartment building in Brooklyn with friends as the World Trade Center collapsed. He filmed the fallout during the last hour of daylight from a roof, and the following morning he played "Disintegration Loop 1.1" as a soundtrack to the aftermath.[3] Stills from the video were used as the covers for the set of four CDs, and several weeks later Basinski dedicated the work to the victims in a postscript in the liner notes.[3] He said that "the events gave new meaning to the musical pieces created by catastrophic decay in my studio a few weeks before".[3]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Pitchfork9.4/10 (2004)[6]
10/10 (2012)[7]
Spectrum Culture[8]
Stylus MagazineA+[9]

Pitchfork named The Disintegration Loops I–IV the 30th-best album of 2004[10] and the 196th-best album of the 2000s.[11] In 2016, Pitchfork named it the third-best ambient record of all time.[12] It was named the 86th best album of the decade by Resident Advisor,[13] and the 10th best by Tiny Mix Tapes.[14]

On September 11, 2011, Basinski's work was performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as a live orchestration to mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.[15]

In 2022, Basinski's work served as the soundscape of Lashing Skies, a 45-minute immersive journey of five fictional stories unfolding amidst the events of September 11th. The artwork, exhibited at Centre Phi in Montreal, was designed and directed by multidisciplinary artist Brigitte Poupart.[16]

2012 reissue[edit]

On September 4, 2012, New York-based record label Temporary Residence reissued the entire Disintegration Loops as a nine-LP box set, marking the project's 10-year anniversary and its impending induction into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.[17] The collection, which was remastered, was released in a limited edition of 2,000 copies, with a 5xCD version, 63-minute DVD, and 144-page coffee table book with photos and liner notes by Basinski, Antony, David Tibet, Ronen Givony and Michael Shulan.[17]

Track listing[edit]

The Disintegration Loops
1."dlp 1.1"63:33
2."dlp 2.1"10:55
The Disintegration Loops II
1."dlp 2.2"32:37
2."dlp 3"41:50
The Disintegration Loops III
1."dlp 4"20:07
2."dlp 5"52:21
The Disintegration Loops IV
1."dlp 6"40:36
2."dlp 1.2"21:50
3."dlp 1.3"12:00

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ian Simmons. "'The disintegration loops' by William Basinski". Nth Position. Archived from the original on 2009-04-13.
  2. ^ The Sound of Decay|The New Yorker
  3. ^ a b c d e Stubbs, David (2018). Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex. London: Faber & Faber. p. 352. ISBN 9780571346974. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Dusted Reviews". Archived from the original on 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  5. ^ "Mixcloud". Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  6. ^ Tangari, Joe (April 8, 2004). "William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops I–IV". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  7. ^ Richardson, Mark (November 19, 2012). "William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  8. ^ Coleman, Rodger (December 10, 2012). "William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Heumann, Michael (February 2, 2004). "William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops – Review". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  10. ^ Pitchfork staff (December 31, 2004). "Top 50 Albums of 2004". Pitchfork. p. 3. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  11. ^ Pitchfork staff (September 28, 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s". Pitchfork. p. 1. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  12. ^ Pitchfork staff (September 26, 2016). "The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time". Pitchfork. p. 5. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  13. ^ "Top 100 albums of the '00s". Resident Advisor. January 25, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  14. ^ TMT staff (February 12, 2010). "Favorite 100 Albums of 2000-2009: 20–01". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
  15. ^ Squeo (September 11, 2011). "William Basinski's Disintegration Loops NYC performance to be webcast today". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  16. ^ Lashing Skies|A poetic audio immersion|Centre PHI
  17. ^ a b Temporary Residence to Release Vinyl Box Set for William Basinski's Disintegration Loops Series|Pitchfork

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]