Phill Niblock

Touch Works, for Hurdy Gurdy and Voice

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"The forgotten minimalist" is how Kyle Gann's sleevenote describes 67 year old Phill Niblock. His music is largely unavailable on disc, and no recordings by him figured in Brian Duguid's Early Minimalism Primer in The Wire 206. And he's certainly neglected in the history books - neither Keith Potter's recent 'Four Musical Minimalists', nor Michael Nyman's classic 'Experimental Music', so much as mention him. Among the Big Four minimalists, he has closest affinities with the drone-based approach of La Monte Young, two years his junior. But he's more listenable than Young, and it could be that history's getting things wrong. Young may have been the ideas man, but Niblock's the superior musical creator, as this compelling album bears out. Niblock trained as a film maker and always uses a visual component in his productions, which we're obviously deprived of here. 'Hurdy Hurry' features samples of hurdy-gurdy playing by Jim O'Rourke. The harmonies gradually stabilise into a root-position chord then move back to instability - a very slow-mo version of 'running the changes' over nearly 20 minutes. The sound is massive, like a church organ at full power. Gann comments that the changes in the drones are almost imperceptibly slow, but compared to Young, you can hear them subtly but very perceptibly unfolding their frequencies. There are two versions of 'AYU' - 'As Yet Untitled' - featuring the throat-singing of Tom Buckner, a classically trained baritone who became involved in free Improv in the 60s, then worked ina trio with Roscoe Mitchell and Gerald Oshita. On the first 'AYU', Niblock creates a drone piece from samples of his singing. On the second, Buckner returned to the recording studio and, listening with headphones, three times recorded a line in and out of tune with his source version. Four channels of pitch shift were added, and the effect is like achoir of throat-singers. As on 'Hurdy Hurry' there's a continuous, unbroken stream of sound, but with quivering, buzzing overtones. The effect of the interference patterns is hypnotic, even relaxing. This is a quite superb release. [Andy Hamilton]

Phill Niblock: Touch Works, for Hurdy Gurdy and Voice

Hurdy Hurry Phil Niblock
A Y U Phil Niblock
A Y U Live Phil Niblock

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