Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.

music Home > Record Reviews

Sound Tracks

Phill Niblock: Touch Three

Phill Niblock: Touch Three

Release Date:2006

By Marc Masters | Posted 6/14/2006

Like the gradual ascent of his compositions, Phill Niblock’s releases for England’s Touch label have slowly gotten bigger and bigger. Touch Three, which follows 2001’s hourlong Touch Works and 2003’s two-hour Touch Food, offers nine 20-minute pieces stretched across three bulging discs. Because Niblock’s method is so consistent—he almost always records single notes played by individual musicians, then layers the results into massive walls of sound—and the results are so solid, it’s tempting to say that one Niblock release is enough. For anyone uninterested in finding minute details and nearly imperceptible changes inside monolithic drones, one may actually be too many.

But for those whose appetites are whet by that description, the music of this 72-year-old master keeps delivering surprises. Whether he’s turning Julia Eckhardt’s viola into a horror film score on “Valence,” morphing the test-tone shrillness of Martin Zrost’s soprano sax into soothing waves on “Zrost,” or filtering Lucia Mense’s recorders through darkened moods on “Lucid Sea,” Niblock repeatedly defies both expectation and logic. Touch Three’s biggest curve ball is “Parker’s Altered Mood, aka, Owed to Bird.” Here, saxophonist Ulrich Kreiger plays a glacially paced version of Charlie Parker’s “Mood” six times, and Niblock piles those iterations into a chiming symphony of microtones. Such novel ideas suggest Niblock has enough tricks left in his bag to fill whatever kind of multi-CD follow-ups Touch inevitably has planned.

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter