PHILL NIBLOCK / QUATUOR BOZZINI – Baobab

QB

This record comprises the performances of two Phill Niblock scores, “Disseminate” from 1998 and the title track, first conceived in 2011. For the occasion, the composer worked with Quatuor Bozzini (Clemens Merkel, Alissa Cheung, Stéphanie Bozzini, Isabelle Bozzini) with the aim of multiplying the string quartet’s voices and overall muscle. The procedure is synthetically explained in the liner notes, so I won’t bother repeating it here; moreover, Niblock’s ways of assembling his cascading microtonal drones are (hopefully) well known to the readers of this blog. Let me just remind the brightness of a man who, armed with a mere laptop, still manages to produce unlikely levels of psychophysical correspondence with the invisible forces of our environment.

This version of “Disseminate” stands among the mightiest episodes met over decades of acquaintance with Niblock’s material. Its character is extraordinarily “in your face”; the self is symbolically invited to get out of the way, an army of shifting pitches developing a totality of quivering intensities striving to reach the perfection of an all-encompassing embrace. “Baobab” starts with a quasi-tonal affirmation, its enormous strength actually giving a chance to believe we’re hearing a steady chord. With the passage of time, the congenital jarring features start breaking through: right there the fun begins, internal rhythms and oscillations projecting a sense of cerebral and spiritual completion that no spoken or written word will ever be able to equal. The whole appears at once imperial and utterly instructive.

Aside from the usual advice – namely, playing this music loud for an improved functionality of the adjacent upper partials – one can only dream about the average brain finally learning to decode and accept the complexity of a mass of contiguous tones, regardless of someone’s dictations on “consonance” and “dissonance”. As the initiator himself said, it is what it is; the spaces may be completely filled by the sounds, but the ultimate outcome is the silence of the mind. Kudos then to Quatuor Bozzini, who finely rendered an essential concept of Niblock’s vision: the instrumentalist – a fundamental injector of sonic fluids – is nevertheless a means to an awesome end.

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