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Young Person's Guide to Phill Niblock (YPGPN)

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Album Review

There's gap between Phill Niblock's productivity as a composer and his recorded output — and there's a very good reason for that. Niblock's music typically relies on aggregated layers of sustained tones. The sound waves fill up a room, flapping against each other. The architecture of the space in which it is diffused, the volume level, and the quality of the playback equipment all become important variables in the "performance." Releasing this music for domestic consumption implies letting go of the control the composer can have over these variables. On the other hand, the listener can experiment at will, and that is what Young Person's Guide to Phill Niblock comes down to. Produced in 1995 by the British label Blast First and the magazine The Wire, this two-CD retrospective culls works from the late '70s, early '80s, and mid-'90s. It has been reissued in 2002 by the American label XI under the shorter title YPGPN, with extra liner notes. The seven pieces range in duration from 13 to 22 minutes. Each one features a series of tones played in the studio by a single musician and later arranged by Niblock. Flutist Barbara Held is heard in "Held Tones." Ulrich Krieger contributed didjeridoo and tenor sax to three pieces. Trombonists James Fulkerson, Jon English, and George Lewis are at the heart of one work each, all three included on disc two. The trombone's round sound produces the best results. Rich harmonics unfold as the trance-inducing tones wrap you up. This is not music to listen to (especially not with headphones!), but to experience as a physical phenomena, and as such it can provide hours of enjoyment. Furthermore, this set remains the most comprehensive and accessible collection of Niblock's music, whose influence has extended to all spheres of avant-garde music and has found special resonance in the sound installation artists of the early 2000s. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Born: October 2, 1933 in Anderson, IN

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

American minimalist composer Phill Niblock has been active in his multimedia endeavors since the mid-'60s. His shows usually incorporate film footage (generally are long takes of non-Western people working), or other visual elements such as slides, video, and photography, often presenting more than one of these simultaneously with his music. His music itself is characterized by multiple tones sounding simultaneously for long stretches, creating a very dense, seemingly static sound. Niblock has relatively...
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Young Person's Guide to Phill Niblock (YPGPN), Phill Niblock
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