Phill Niblock

Touch Food

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Following the reissue by XI of the Young Person's Guide to Phill Niblock, Touch released this two-CD set of new works by the master of sonic illusion. Touch Food consists of four pieces, which are the result of a one-month residency in April 2001 at the CCMIX in Paris. There, Niblock has worked with clarinetist Carol Robinson, electric bassist Kasper T. Toeplitz, pianist Reinhold Friedl and saxophonist Ulrich Krieger -- the latter a recurring collaborator. Each piece follows Niblock's usual blueprint. He records samples of the instrument, develops harmonic series, and creates a rich drone of multi-tracked tones interacting with one another and the musician, who at the end of the process adds a live part to the final mix. The drone fills up the listening space; inhabits it. Disc one presents three 25-minute pieces. "Sea Jelly Yellow," with Krieger's baritone sax, is the best one: fat, larger than life, captivating. There's a problem with the other two tracks. "Sweet Potato" is credited to Robinson, and "Yam Almost May" to Toeplitz (in two places in the booklet) but the ear contests the information. The raging low register of "Sweet Potato" obviously belongs to the electric bass, while the nasal, reedy qualities of "Yam Almost May" is clearly clarinet. "Yam Almost May" is surprisingly delicate, almost fragile. The composer has left it less saturated, which introduces a pleasant change. Disc two contains the piano piece "Pan Fried 70," glorious and endowed with a scary bass register. Yet its duration makes it quite a challenge to sit through. Niblock explains in the liner notes that being stuck with four 25-minute pieces that would not fit onto a single CD, he "decided to make a 75-minute version of the piano piece. I became a little tired at 70 minutes, and since I am 70 this year, I stopped at that." Don't let the casual, detached tone fool you. There is more care going into (and coming out of) this music than you could suspect.

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