samedi 30 mai 2009

Phill Niblock : Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice (Touch 2000]


Genre : Drone

"Sometimes you may wonder whether the music of composer and Experimental Intermedia director Phill Niblock ever changes. Yes, each piece consists of continual shifts within clusters of tones, intensified in performance by the acoustics of the space. Musicians and listeners can even create shifts by changing their position in the space. And, yes, he does use different instruments to build his pieces on. And the exact treatment they get differs for every piece. But the principle behind the process does not seem to have changed throughout the years. Niblock records samples of musicians producing tones at exact pitches, tuned only microtones apart. Intervals of 2 and 3 Hz are no exception. These samples he puts together in long strings and multiple layers of sound. Differences between individual compositions must arise from the procedure followed, and from the characteristics of the basic material. Niblock's first CD used recordings of flutes, his second (both are on XI Records) had one piece for quintupled string quartet, and one for quartet, flutes, and assorted synthesized instruments. His latest, Touch Works, has one composition for hurdy gurdy, played by Jim O'Rourke, and two for Thomas Buckner's voice. The sources are about as singular as you can get - Niblock has significantly scaled down in comparison with his second release, and yet the overall sound is far richer than what you'll find on these earlier albums. This, I think, must be due mainly to the timbral complexity of the source material. The hurdy gurdy, a string instrument in which a resined wheel functions as a bow, has of itself a vigorous steely sound, which can get more edge with some extra pressure exerted on the crank. The human voice has a wide palette of timbres, and if anyone is expert at picking and choosing shades and hues from that array, it's Tom Buckner. He even takes a step beyond that, condensing timbres to their partials. Niblock has extended the scope of the musicians further with a pitch shifter, adding lines that run one or two octaves below the originals. In conjunction these lines start a fierce and lively series of interactions. As always there is a ground base and its octaves, and tones close to them - tones of very diverse character. The piece for hurdy gurdy makes clear how different this music is from Niblock's earlier work. Out of ominously dark pedal notes shimmering chords irradiate, painting bright sparkling edges on the grinding core. This paves the way for the As Yet Untitled pieces that feature Tom Buckner. The voice, in the middle register, is immediately recognizable as his. But deep down there is a steady roar. His voice hovers above it, multiplied to an almost monotone swarm. Almost, because there are individuals just up and down from that, making the unison come alive in shivering brilliance. The glassy whistles of his overtone singing take swift steps upwards, to remain on one level for some moments before ascending further, or diffracting into glorious chords, underpinned by the growling roar. Buckner's first piece hardly prepares you for what follows - adding his voice in live improvisation to Niblock's construction. It is the same music, but a totally new take on it, as if an old world is shone on by a new sun. There is a lushness, an undeniable sensuousness, an organic wildness to this music, which is a departure from the controlled austerity of Niblock's XI albums. At some points the music sounds as if he has managed to match Tibetan monks with an angelic choir, although admittedly the entire mass of sound might just as well be some huge machine, with myriads of mysteries going on inside, such as helicopters chopping away at Doppler's. After the first impact you might wish to wander deeper into this wilderness, have a more precise view of what is moving there. The detail is amazing - choruses, swarms and clusters can virtually be followed to their single constituents. Each on its own seems motionless, but in their various combinations they create complex ever shifting relationships. And, mind you, this description is based on listening over headphones. When I tried it on my speakers the entire room was replete with sound bouncing off walls and furniture, forming temporary nodes on different spots, and driving my neighbours to foaming madness. Phill Niblock's music has changed, but it does remain true to itself. Being at once open and dense Touch Works is evidence of the vitality of his minimalism - if that term is at all appropriate here." (from Copious Singularity)
  • Hurdy Hurry (15:20)
  • A Y U, AKA "As Yet Untitled" (21:30)
  • A Y U, Live (21:30)
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