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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Quatuor Bozzini – Phill- Niblock-Baobab ****

By Nick Ostrum

The Canadian ensemble Quatuor Bozzini are really something special. I only recently came across them on Cassandra Miller’s Just So, which I loved . A quick internet search reveals that they have interpreted everyone from contemporary composers such as Miller and Linda Catlin Smith to John Cage (of course they did) to, now, Phil Niblock. And they do all of this with great aplomb and, even more impressively, refinement.

Phill Niblock-Baobab is no exception, though it is a very different beast than some of their other releases. (For you Niblock fans out there, you likely already know what to expect.) Originally penned for orchestra, the two tracks on this album - “Disseminate” and “Baobab” - have been chopped and reconfigured as 20 separate tracks, each consisting of a single instrument, performed by the quartet of Clemens Merkel, Alissa Cheung, Stéphanie Bozzini, and Isabelle Bozzini. The result, per the notes of Emanuelle Majeau-Bettez, is a sort of “hardcore drone” of microtonal layerings, albeit created by a chamber quartet. In that, it reminds me of a less wandering and less entangled take on Zeitkratzer’s Metal Machine Music recording . As seems fitting for such acoustic drone, these tracks are characterized by sonic modulations rather than melodic shifts or unpredictable sounds. In this sense, the music sounds deceptively mechanical, as if it were a series of digital loops. Of course, the acoustic nature of the music belies this. Apart from the brief fade-in and fade-out marking the beginning and end of each piece, these songs have no prescribed course. They simply and glacially fluctuate, as the listener’s ear wanders from tone to tone.

This is music to listen to closely. This is music to read to, to tune in and out of. This is music to mediate to and contemplate. If full, subtle, and loud new music is your thing (and, yes, this should be played loud), Baobab is well worth the listen. And, if you are not yet sure whether you enjoy this “hardcore drone,” this compounded, aggressive monotony dense with rich timbral subtleties, then this album is an excellent place to start.


Richard said...

Another excellent Bozzini recording is "Simon Martin : Musique d’art".

Richard said...

Also anyone interested in drone, there are new albums out by Sunn O))) and Big | Brave,
which I think you'll find are slightly different than this one.

Are more artists exploring drone or am I just noticing it more?

Steve N. said...

This recording by the Quatuor Bozzini is incredible. It's like listening to a massive wall of bricks!

The Sunn o))) album is also amazing. I have to listen to Big | Brave also.

Yes, lots of cool drone music lately. The new Tim Hecker record is really good too!

Nick Ostrum said...

Thanks for all of the references and pardon the delay. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the new Sunn O))). And the others except for Big|Brave, I have not yet encountered. Drone seems to be a hot thing right now in the avant jazz (see also, this review of Lantskap Logic [] and some others on FJB), contemporary classical (especially Another Timbre and Wandelweiser), and black/extreme metal worlds. Its a strangely exciting time for music based around something so superficially monotonous.

Nick Ostrum said...

Pardon the delay. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the new Sunn O))). Beyond that and Big|Brave, I am unfamiliar with these other musicians. Thanks for the references.
Drone seems to be relatively hot right now in the avant jazz (see the review of Lantskap Logic [] and some others on FJB), contemporary classical (Wandelweiser, Another Timbre, etc.), and, of course, experimental/noise/black metal. It seems an oddly exciting time for a music that is so superficially monotonous.

Richard said...

I'll jump in one more time. Two good recent examples of contemporary classical drone are

-Zachary Paul-Meditation On Discourse
-Giulio Aldinucci-Disappearing In a Mirror

There is a lot of electronic music in this style, for example the work of Dave Seidel. See his bandcamp page.

I learned about Big|Brave when I saw them open for Sunn O))). Now that was an experience.

Steve N. said...

Released just a year ago, "Conquistador" by Dylan Carlson - the godfather of drone metal himself - is another great record.