Listening to Stuart Maconie's "how-mad-are-we-to-call-ourselves-the-Freak-Zone?" (Sundays, 6pm) is like being back in the 1970s sitting pinned to a chair and smoking bad Moroccan while your friend's older brother energetically forces you to listen to his records. They're all made by white people, and they're all going to be "off-beat", a bit "weird", or just plain old prog-rock, stuff he's picked up on by a scholarly reading of the NME and listening in on the conversations of his cooler friends.
Maconie has an odd delivery, as if he sometimes gets bored being enthusiastic about the words he's given himself to read so he has to
remember to put a little rise in his voice at the end of his sentences. But his enthusiasm is genuine; in this show he's flying the John Peel flag of idiosyncrasy and some of the music he plays demands more attention than it usually receives, except in this week's featured case, William Basinski's problematic album The Disintegration Loops.
Basinski is from the minimalist school and likes simple, repetitive rhythms, tape loops and found sounds. In 2001, in his studio in Brooklyn, he was trying to digitalise some old tape loops of his that were already decaying. The process of transferring them degraded them further and, in an inadvertently poignant way, the sounds that were recorded contained their own ghosts. The length of each piece in the resulting four-CD set was determined by how long each magnetic tape took to completely disintegrate while passing through the tape heads.
As Maconie said, the sound is of music "literally dying away". So far, so interesting, a consummation of the minimalist's love of chance determining form. But a lot has been made of the coincidence that Basinski happened to be finishing off this project while passenger jets were crashing into the twin towers on 11 September 2001. The Disintegration Loops have taken on another life as the requiem of downtown New York. Call me a sceptic but I've found this a little difficult to take, and Maconie ("very haunting, very sad") didn't help me to decide if they're actually evocative of anything outside their own process, or just an accidental vehicle of unearned sentimentality.
Antonia Quirke is away