If, Bwana / Dan Warburton – I Am Sitting In Phill Niblock’s Kitchen


On paper this was an unlikely couple, in spite of my awareness of the planning of this joint project since at least two years ago. Besides showcasing notable journalistic skills, Dan Warburton normally produces music whose coordinates range between pure field recording and uncategorized improvisation. He’s classically trained, though, and Guy Livingston’s piano version of his “Speed Study I” – utterly misshapen, like the majority of this record’s sounds – was utilized by Al Margolis in the final mix of the piece (to be honest, inaudibly for this writer).

If, Bwana’s recorded output is bigger than the partner’s and perhaps more homogeneous in terms of resonance at large, even if Margolis himself has trodden paths that render typical classification a redundant act. Somehow, Warburton pitch-transposed and stretched a compendium of If, Bwana discs into the computer, adapting the resultant precipitate to the 45-minute frame of the 2008 concert in Ghent for which the composition was originally designated. The Belgian city is a second hometown to Phill Niblock: in the latter’s kitchen, the object of this write-up took its definitive shape. The nod to Alvin Lucier (and to a previous Warburton / Reynols CDR on the Greek label Absurd) are quite obvious in the title.

What’s coming out of the speakers after all of this preparative activity, then? The acoustic environment appears saturated with dense substances that, in one way or another, alter the conceptualization of the few intelligible events. The introduction and the finale are defined by an adynamic click, yet an overall vision suggests dark-clouded gloom. There are a lot of voices burbling and gurgling at various times: think a dozen TV sets turned on while the room is progressively filled up with mucilaginous liquids. The atmosphere somewhat bodes evil, and the adjective “droning” can be applied here, too, but the incomprehensible vocal layers add further sensations of insecurity. However, when we consider the incidence of noise – from the kitchen itself and from the neighborhood – we could attempt to escape the quicksand of metaphorical description by declaring this opus fit for a hypothetical bin, possibly tagged “infected musique concrete”. The components may be barely manifest, but the effects on those who listen carefully are very clear – and do not imply felicity.

Throughout continual spins we merely managed to scratch the surface of a curled-up work, one that entirely vindicates both its protracted conception and our enduring curiosity.


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