Phill Niblock - Touch Strings

Track listing:

CDOne - 59:03 (6 tracks) 1. - 6. Stosspeng (59 minutes) Susan Stenger and Robert Poss, guitars and bass guitars

CDTwo - 69:28 (6 tracks) 1. Poure (23:30) Arne Deforce, cello 2. - 6. One Large Rose (45:55 minutes) The Nelly Boyd Ensemble, Hamburg - Robert Engelbrecht, cello; Jan Feddersen, piano strummed with nylon strings; Peter Imig, violin; Jens Roehm, acoustic bass guitar strummed with nylon strings or e-bow

Artwork: Jon Wozencroft Photography: Phill Niblock

This is Phill Niblock's 4th release on Touch, after Touch Works... [TO:49, 2000], Touch Food [TO:59, 2003] and Touch Three [TO:69, 2006].

"Stosspeng was completed in April 2007; Poure in September 2008 and One Large Rose in May 2008. The Stosspeng recording session to obtain the materials for the piece was on December 20 2006 at Robert Poss's Trace Elements studio on E 4th Street and Ave A, in New York. Robert was the engineer. The piece was completed using Protools in April 2007, in Vienna, Austria. It was premiered at the Donau Festival in Krems Austria on April 30 2007.

The material for Poure was recorded in Johan Vandermaelen's Amplus studio in Aaigem Belgium, with technical assistance by Guy De Bievre. Much of the construction of the piece, in Protools, was done in a residency at Atelier Azur in Hoenefoss, Norway at the Hval Station, in mid August 2008. It was finished in Ellen Fullman's studio in Berkeley California on September 7. It was premiered at Kasteel Schuurlo, Sint-Maria-Aalter, Belgium on September 12 2008 and it was commissioned by the Centre de Recherches et de Formation Musicales de Wallonie, CRFMW, Liege, Belgium.

One Large Rose was made with the musicians playing from a score, and recorded acoustically and in real time. There are four recordings of 46 minutes each, superimposed. Recorded by Jens Roehm at Christianskirche, Hamburg, Germany, recording assistance by Julia Berg, on May 15 and 16 2008. Mixing was done by Jens Roehm and the ensemble in Hamburg, and the final mix was done in New York at Experimental Intermedia on October 13 2008.

The mastering for CD, of all pieces, was done by Tom Hamilton, in New York." Phill Niblock, August 2009


It has been brought to our attention that there is a pagination error in the booklet of the recently released "Touch Strings" double CD by Phill Niblock. The centre pages are the wrong way round...

This occurred at the origination stage, but it is easily solvable.

1) Gently lever up the staples on the inside of the booklet. Do not remove them, just lever up the ends of the staple 2) Take out the centre pages and turn them over 3) Put the pages back over the staples 4) Gently push down the staple ends


Brainwashed (USA):

Spread across two discs, the three compositions here were all conceived and recorded between 2007 and 2008, realized with a slew of different players. "Stosspeng," which comprises the entirely of the first disc, features Band of Susans founders Susan Stenger and Robert Poss working together on both guitar and ebow’d bass. Each were recorded in a specific channel and limited to specific pitch groups, Poss with E, Stenger with F#, and both shared F. The result is, unsurprisingly, a slow drift of guitar tone that is far more sparse or subtle than most guitar based minimalist compositions.

The piece continues to be a serpentine composition between Stenger’s higher register tones and Poss’ lower frequency approach. The two become locked a constant struggle between the lighter and darker tones, pushing the sound between ambient, spacey shimmers and more sinister, rumbling swells. The composition premiered at a show that also featured KTL and Throbbing Gristle, so the mood is fitting to be among those artists, though the sound is far more pure and meditative than would be expected from the aforementioned artists.

Disc two opens with "Poure," the 23 minute piece for cello (played by Arne Deforce). Rather than a single session, the track is the total of 32 different layers of playing, all in the notes of A and D, but of varying octaves, and just slightly off on tuning. With only subtle adjustments via Protools, a world of instrumentation can be heard just from the harmonics produced from the layering of tracks. Sounds of trumpets, bagpipes, and church organ all appear from the strings of the cello.

The final piece, "One Large Rose," expands the instrumental repertoire to include piano, violin, and acoustic bass guitar, to weave a more complex and multifaceted, yet consistently minimalist composition. The performers of this track, the Nelly Boyd Ensemble, played 4 takes of 46 minutes each, the results of which were layered together, but otherwise unedited.

Again, more sounds than are actually present can be heard in this wall of drone, resembling didgeridoo and other strings that as a whole feels similar to "Poure," but with a heavier sonic palette. The most obvious addition is the lower register piano, but the piece overall has a more sinister quality to it, introducing dark, gutteral passages and bassy flatulent sounds to the otherwise gliding strings. As "Stosspeng" recalled a struggle between light and dark, "One Large Rose" is a contrast between chaos and order, oscillating between drifts of sound that are relatively peaceful, and hellish choruses of unadulterated noise.

Touch Strings is an excellent example for anyone who thinks "drone" is simply repetition. While conceptually there are intentional limitations put both on the performers and the composition, the interplay of the instruments produces sounds that rival the most complex pieces out there.

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Phill Niblock - Touch Strings

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