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Phill Niblock - Touch Strings [Touch - 2009]

‘Touch Strings’  a two disc cd set that brings together over two hours worth of Phill Niblock’s distinctive & often sonical vast take on the  drone genre. This great collection shows once more why he’s one of the most respected & celebrated practitioners'  of the drone form.

As the albums title suggests all the pieces here are made utilizing only stringed instruments; but don’t expect rich & lush Hollywood or classical string dwells here. Niblock’s  sonic world is a lot less straight forward and approachable than simply pleasing harmonic or dramatic string dwells, his pieces cleverly & intelligently shift, or grow in  a seemingly quite  organic and goose bump inducing manner. But don’t expect quick hits or sudden shifts in the drone maps of the tracks as  Niblock's sonic world is often very slow moving, thoughtful & never in  let rush to impress you with flashy or contrived mood setting. You have to give it time and patience to get under your skin, but trust me when it does there is nothing quite like Niblock’s work


Opening up the set and taking up the whole of the first disc is  ‘Stosspeng’ which  is a vast fifty nine minute piece that offers up a slow ice berg shifting selection of tone maps and penetrating, thick yet  slightly malevolent drone matter.  The tracks sonically realized with the use of two guitars & a bass guitar, which Niblock manipulates into a seemingly slow breathing mass of tone that drifts from being brooding, to more than a little  edgy & hypnotic, on to lush &  vast . It gives one the sonic equivalent of  looking down a endless black satin lined corridor  which is slightly and slowly contracting in & out at it’s edges, and it just seems to stretchers on & on  further than the eye can strain to see.

Onto disc two which opens up with the twenty three minutes of ‘Poure’ which utilizes the sustained & humming tone wonderful of the cello which Niblock manipulates into quite an active & tone shifting track of drone matter, which to start with  rather brought to my mind the slow raise of the sun morning over mist shimmered plain- as with each turn of tone the track seems to get brighter, more pressing & engulfing in it's bright ringing drone rise. Though as the pieces goes on much darker & more sinister tonalities appearing too as well,as  if the suns picking out scattered & fly buzzed animal carcass, & human body parts as it lights up the plains vast expanse.


Then to finishing  off the set and the last disc we have ‘One Large Flower’ which concentrates on slowly opening layers and depths of the drone. With the nearly forty five minute piece utilizing the most  instruments here to create it’s vast canvas of drone with the use of piano strummed with nylon strings, violin and acoustic bass strummed with nylon strings or e-bow. This is certainly the most active & shifting of the three pieces here having at times a more drift & morphing feel to it’s drone trail than the other tracks. Again like ‘Poure’  this track  nicely mixers lighter and darker tonalities well, but this track is less easily defined whether it’s dark and brooding or light & lush; it sits somewhere in-between and I think is more defined by personal mood.


The two disc set is finished off with twelve page booklet which sees this set and tracks discussed and commented one by Niblock himself, along with musicians who took part in the creation of the tracks which nicely tops off this highly enjoyable, though at times challenging  and time consuming collection of drone works by one of the masters of the form

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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