Phill Niblock | Touch Food
Touch | 2CD
"In the mid 1960s, I was riding a two stroke, Yamaha motorcycle up a long mountain slope in the Carolinas, stuck behind a diesel engine truck. Both of our throttles were very open, overcoming the force of gravity. Soon, the revolutions of our respective engines came to a nearly harmonic coincidence, but not quite.
"The strong physical presence of the beats resulting from the two engines running at slightly different frequencies put me in such a trance that I nearly rode off the side of the mountain."
So, Niblock's involvement with the drone is certainly one of an existential dimension, but there is also the fact that he was born a Libra 70 years ago under a constellation which leaves people to wander their entire lives looking for a certain kind of balance. With his music Niblock has found such a balance, or perhaps a state where organized sound floats and stands still at the same time.
I was first introduced to many of the pieces on 'Touch Food' when I had the opportunity to witness one of his live performances at Glasgow's Instal Festival in 2002. The music was loud, the screenings large and bright; time seemed to stand still. We, the audience, found ourselves lost in a simple and pure unit of hypnotizing beauty. It was certainly one of the greatest performances I've ever experienced.
Niblock's second release on Touch the double CD comprises three compositions for solo baritone sax, electric bass and clarinets; and a 70 minute piece for piano. Each piece follows his trademark method of having instrumentalists play long, held, pure tones or - in case of the piano piece - almost static movements which he layers track by track by track to create a long, slowly crawling tonal band that allows the frequencies to melt into each other to form a frozen momentum of eternal sound.
'Yam, almost May' for electric bass is an outstanding piece. Based on material performed by the French composer and software instrument designer Kasper T. Toeplitz, it has a hovering quality, like a shuttle into warmth.
Meanwhile 'Pan Fried 70' features composer and pianist Reinhold Friedl playing the strings of a grand piano by working on them with another loose string, representing the other side of the sonic and emotional spectrum with its clangings and screeches of tortured metal. The effect of this long piece is breathtaking.
'Touch Food' is, in short, an exceptional collection of works by one of the outstanding composers of our time.