Lawrence English on Phill Niblock’s Ghosts And Others…
Ghosts And Others is a singular work in the Phill Niblock canon. It’s singular not just in its material content, but also in its methodology and approach. It represents a highly focused exercise in editing, location recording and acoustic observation.
In many ways, this work reflects a kind of acoustic mirroring of his practices as a film maker. It makes itself available to the world and in doing so reveals a particular perspective that says as much about its creator as it does about its subjects.
Like all of Niblock’s works this is a piece of patience. It is a work that dwells in the places it finds itself in, allowing certain moments to dominate in some sections, and seemingly vanish away in others. It suggests a movement within boundaries, in that it bounces from one locale to another counterpointing their gradual evolutions across time.
There’s a sense of collision throughout Ghost And Others. Explosions of Chinese percussion punctuate the piece, dynamic strikes to ward off ghosts during a funeral procession in Aberdeen, Hong Kong. They clang between bursts of car horn, the bellows of cows from collective Soviet-era farm in Hungary and various other sonic ephemera. Elsewhere a reeded instrument tries to carve a space for itself, but the world does not allow it to hold. It is a work that celebrates proximity as much as an aural vista.
Transit is also a theme here. What is a fascinating about Ghost And Others is the sense of movement in the work. Trains divide up this piece, marking points of transition, of distraction and of discovery. They act as gate-keepers almost, allowing us through into new spaces and suggesting new relations between the sounds as they combine or detach.
As a work of field recording, Ghosts And Others is generous, invitational and most of all effortlessly deep. It is resonate sensing of place, people and things.