Ensemble neoN - Niblock/Lamb ( CD Hubromusic)
For over a decade Norway’s Ensemble neoN (EN) have been releasing forward thinking neo-classical compositions. Not content to release one album in 2019, ‘Through a Network of Illuminated Streets’ came out in March, they have released a new album, ‘Niblock/Lamb’, of compositions commissioned for the Only Connect Festival in 2016.
‘Niblock/Lamb’ features original compositions by legendary American composer/artist/film-maker Phil Niblock and composer/violist Catherine Lamb. What is most distinctive about the recordings is how they feel polar opposite to each other, but this is part of their charm. Niblock’s ‘To Two Tea Roses’ is pure droney goodness, where recurring motifs and patterns emerge, become skewed and re-emerge later but slightly altered, giving a ludic sense of deva ju. ‘Parallaxis Forma’ is more ethereal and after an intro made up of vocals with droning strings there is a more calming and tranquil mood. The same level of intensity is there, but it isn’t as in-your-face.
After a first listen you get the impression that there isn’t a great deal going on with ‘Niblock/Lamb’, just a two swaths of noise, droning on for just under an hour, but this is doing the music a disservice. It takes a few more listens to appreciate the complexity of the music. There is a hell of a lot happening just below the surface. Much like a slow moving glacier, or water trapped under an ice-flow, the surface is fairly stationary, but all the action is happening beneath. And like a glacier the music has an epic quality to it. ‘To Two Tea Roses ‘slowly builds to a peak, slowly taking its time to get there and not rushing the journey. This is in part to Niblock’s composition and the deftness of the players.
What ‘Niblock/Lamb’ shows us is that EN are just as capable of re-interrupting others compositions and creating something transcending and visceral, as they are with their own work. It also shows a progression from 2016’s ‘Neon’ album both in scope and musicality. ‘Niblock/Lamb’ has a geometric strength to it, similar to parquet flooring. Individually the motifs, and textures, are just a small piece, but when they are all connected, they form something strong, durable and long-lasting. NR.