Arne Deforce: cello; Rhodri Davies: electric harp; Zwerm Guitar Quartet (Kowe Van Cauwenberghe, Matthias Koole, Toon Callier, Guy De Bièvren); Dither Guitar Quartet (Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, Joshua Lopes, James Moore); Coh Da Guitar Quartet (David First, Seth Josel, Robert Poss, Susan Stenger)
There’s only one Phill Niblock.
Touch Five has been the house’s exclusive – and ongoing – restorative soundtrack over the last days. The unfortunates who can’t chase him during his constant trips across the globe are somehow relieved by the man’s preference for issuing works in double (as in this case) or triple-CD sets, normally following a few years of stillness in terms of material releases. True, a domestic session will never summon forth the excruciating sonic supremacy of a live act; nonetheless, methods exist for making the most of a secluded practice, thus concretizing the explanation offered by the liners in reference to the hypothetical aspiration of instrumentalists facing Niblock’s vision: “the musicians should sense being part of an intonational cloud of sound”.
A superb wording to convey what the certified Niblockian devotee already knows. These relentlessly shifting stratifications of tones – which may appear stagnant to someone unable to identify the inherent rhythms of a life’s cycle – supervise the relocation of a ready and willing person into the land of primary beingness, beyond any other type of “meditation”. The much desired nonappearance of regular thinking processes, the instantaneous acquisition of a rational position where everything “is what it is” (to quote the very composer’s austere depiction of his own creations). Nothing else is needed, and yet we’re completely “there”, minus any cheap-incense silliness.
The first disc is the one that perhaps gives this writer the highest percentage of individual connection as far as indispensable “harmonic gratification” is concerned, where “harmony” is translatable as “feeling quiet-minded and, at the same time, stirred by certain changes inside the piece’s structure”. Both “Feedcorn Ear” (the anagram of Arne Deforce’s name) and “A Cage Of Stars” (featuring Rhodri Davies bowing and eBowing the harp’s strings) belong to the “classic” section of Niblock’s annals. Places where what starts with, say, a cluster in the high register of the aural continuum is subjected to a process of dimensional extension, as the lower regions get involved and an exemplary cathedral of drones is gradually built in a mix of tonal dissolution and “inner fortitude’s rehab”.
The second disc contains three different renditions of a composition named “Two Lips”, one per guitar quartet. A pair of scores are performed simultaneously, and include twenty instrumental parts randomly distributed among the players. This system produces a flux of infinitesimal microtonal repositioning (obligatorily without the utilization of glissando, indicated as “antithetical” to Niblock’s idiom). The edition’s booklet explains the techno-physical principles rather clearly, and we are not going to parrot them here. The outcome is increasingly imposing and “blissfully intimidating” with each new spin, massive mantras disclosing ghosts of muted male choirs oscillating between neighboring pitches. The occasional jangling partials of single strings are caught as a gently ringing gradation in a limitless aura of resounding aliveness. Our spot in the “universe of right now” appears decisively demarcated as the mundane matters of the surrounding world remain shut out of this indiscernible sphere of untainted vibration.
Honest: I could breathe my final breath surrounded by this awe-inspiring music. But since this might not happen soon, I’ll be content with finding myself bathing in such a glorious nature of acoustic significance after the bureaucratic impediments of corporeal continuation have been taken care of.