Differently from the tendencies of the last years – double and triple CD sets incorporating several hours of music – only 40 precious minutes of Phill Niblock’s hints to infinity are divided onto two sides of a vinyl album. Kind of a homecoming for this listener, whose initial contact with the oscillations that would become a primary means of mental training happened via the cover of Niblock For Celli (India Navigation LP, 1984) repeatedly winking from the second-hand bin of a record shop. It took a while for the curious youngster – who was fantasizing some strange piece for strings – to realize that “Celli” was the surname of oboist Joseph, and not the plural of “cello”. Whatever the customer’s ignorance level of then, the sign was ultimately acknowledged and the rest is history.
Rhymes With Water – what a terrific title – presents all the salient characteristics of Niblock’s work. It is useless to further hyperbolize the upper partial-derived essence of this music, the most eloquent representation of pseudo-stasis this side of a placid sea (wondering at this point if there might be a reference to the album’s denomination). However, the utilization of flute and voice this time introduces something different in terms of humanity, so to speak. The tones emerging from virtual unison to evolve into a thick cloud of contiguous pulses are here revealing a distinct physicality. Even more than the quivering streams conveying a sense of preparation for a now inconceivable afterlife, one absorbs the player’s emission notwithstanding the obvious firmness in the composer’s juxtaposition and transposition of the airy pitches. In “De Gliss” – performed by Eric Drescher – this feeling is strengthened by the ear’s penchant to encourage the illusion of acoustic arcs drawn by the reverberations across the space. Of course, it’s all in our mind; or is it? In “Nataliawork” (for Natalia Pschenitschnikowa, who also plays it), a brief vocal appearance is perceived as a somewhat discordant relation to a “near-tonality”: quite a rarity for a man whose contrapuntal orientation exploits the infinitesimal percentages of a given tuning. It does not end so; after the voice has gone, the bass flute and its computerized reflections begin to whisper the impression of a multidimensional sentience.
Contrarily to the fanciful assumptions of cyclical return – typical of egos who cannot stomach the idea of counting for next to nothing in the universal context – a man’s existence is rather quickly forgotten, and rightly so. On the other hand, timelessness is intuition turned into certainty. It is enough to forget about anyone and anything else in order to get ready for the transmutation into vibrational matter. Just stand there, hear your entire life rewinding through the fingertips and switch the brain in “no bullshit” mode, as the dronemeister himself prescribes.