samedi 30 mai 2009

Phill Niblock : Touch Food [Touch 2003]


Genre : Drone

"Phill Niblock is perhaps the least known exponent of the minimalist tradition. A relative lack of recorded output had denied him the attention of the likes of La Monte Young and Steve Reich, although a British concert in 1994 arranged by Blast First did boost his profile on these shores. He is arguably the most minimal of the minimalists - he makes Terry Riley sound like Mike Oldfield in comparison. Niblock requires the listener to re-evaluate their relocation with music in space and time. At first acquaintance with Touch Food, a double CD collection, each piece seems to consist of his holding a single, albeit multilayered note or chord which 'goes' nowhere. It merely hovers for anything up to 20 minutes like some gigantic UFO overhead, before dying away. Once you get inside this music rather thasn observe it with bemusement, the effect is rapturous and - well, maximal.

Niblock achieves his effects through multitracking of live and processed tracks and sampling, all based on original performances on acoustic instruments. He creates an aural illusion of continuity, like the perpetual gush of a waterfall, for instance. In reality, his ingenious layering methods mean that all kinds of infinitesimal but crucial structural and sonic shifts are taking place on a cumulative basis. The naming of the pieces is arbitrary, based on puns on the names of the players or the note they're played in. "Sea Jelly Yellow", based around Ulrich Krieger's baritone saxophone, is the most dense and seemingly unchanging of these pieces, a formidable challenge for the novice. "Sweet Potato", featuring Carol Robinson on bass clarinet, basset horn and Eb clarinet is marginally looser, the variations more tangible, the wavering bass throbs like a solemn chorus of foghorns, or male sirens. "Yam Almost May", featuring Kasper Toeplitz on electric bass, lists and lurches like a looped extract from Gavin Bryar's The Sinking of the Titanic. Press the CD fast-forward button, however, and like one of those time-delay shots of flowers opening and closing, you'll get a surprising sense of its musical edition.

Most awesome of all is "Pan-Fried 70", initially intended as a 75 minute piano piece but, because the composer is 70 this year and "became a little tired after 70 minutes", it stops there. Divided up into five segments, it is performed with a single nylon string tied to a single piano string, "Stroked with Roisin fingers". And yet, once processed, its multiple sonic effects, both real and the result of what you might call a trompe l'oreille, are immense, swarming the entire sky like a heavenly host. Niblock recommends you play his music loud, which always seems like cheating to me, but this truly benefits from being cranked up. It's like the end of the world." (from The Wire)

  • Sea Jelly Yellow (24:17)
  • Sweet Potato (24:10)
  • Yam Almost May (25:14)
  • Pan Fried 70 Pt 1-5
Get it here and here

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