Phill Niblock – Looking for Daniel

Looking For Daniel


In January 2024, Phill Niblock passed away. The influence of this ‘master of minimalism’ can hardly be overstated. ‘Known for his thick, loud drones of music, Niblock’s signature sound is filled with microtones of instrumental timbres that generate many other tones in the performance space’.
His music is often stretched out until time is no longer relevant, but at the same time it can be quite intense: as Lawrence English quotes in his obituary, Phill once wrote “You should play the music very loud. If the neighbours don’t complain, it’s probably not loud enough.”

Two beautiful examples of his encompassing drone compositions are presented on Looking For Daniel, an album that was completed in collaboration with Niblock shortly before he died.
The first is Biliana, composed in 2023 and performed by Biliana Voutchkova – the violinist it was written for. “Her violin phrases and vocalizations carve out a deep sonorous space full of fluctuating overtones.”

Exploratory, Rhine Version, Looking for Daniel, is created from three different performance recordings by Ensemble Modelo62 and Scordatura Ensemble.
This composition is dedicated to the co-director of Ensemble Phoenix in Basel, “which the Rhine river flows through. He disappeared one night and was found along the river after a few weeks. Evidently, he dropped off a bridge. No one thinks it was a deliberate suicide. He is missed.”

Both compositions feature long extended string chords; it’s interesting to experience the fluctuations in sound, the movement of the waves. Biliana feels like a steady drone, with subtle and hardly noticeable changes in the overtones. Exploratory, Rhine Version, Looking for Daniel, on the other hand, is a drone that is constantly changing its underlying structure: ‘a work comprising of 20 parts, where lines seem to emerge and
disappear out of a landscape of harmonies and sonic spectra’

Phill Niblock‘s legacy is a large body of work that deserves to be explored. But I guess the could hardly be a better way to end his career than with these two compositions, which encapsulate everything his music stood for.

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