Boomkat Product Review:
Jim O’Rourke and Robert Ashley collaborator Thomas Buckner contributes source material for drone alchemist Phill Niblock’s 2001 Touch debut, a true meisterwerk resounding with canonical pieces by La Monte Young, Éliane Radigue, Phurpa, Yoshi Wada, Harley Gaber
‘Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice’ arrived at the cusp of the new millennium as Phill Niblock’s follow-up to the immense ‘Ghists and Others’ (1999), which was recently reissued by Room40. The three part album is cleft between instrumental and vocal works that, despite differing origins, ideally illustrate the singular results achieved by Niblock’s ascetic process of sampling, editing and layering acoustic sources into breathtaking microtonal drone chronics. It’s works such as this one, and reaching back to his 1982 debut, ‘Nothing To Look at Just a Record’ that firmly established Niblock among the pantheon of c.20th drone great and beyond, and remains a powerful example of transcendent art music in effect.
According to his typically no tricks approach and inarguable results, ’Hurdy Hurry’ features a Jim O’Rourke performance on the titular, hand-cranked instrument, renowned for its ability to produce sustained tones, alchemised by Niblock into 14 minutes of glacially shifting harmonic registers peaking out with searing top end dissonance and swollen low end. The effect recalls Yoshi & Tashi Wada’s work with reed organ, harmonium and bagpipes as much as the sound of a foghorn dying, and we’re fully here for it. ’A Y U’ on the other hand, is the meat of this release, pitching American baritone vocalist Thomas Buckner in a transfixing exploration of vocal drone chronics producing psychedelic overtones as more commonly heard in Tibetan throat singing or the likes of Phurpa. For some 40 odd minutes over two parts he opens a portal to other dimensions.