If, Bwana/Dan Warburton

I am Sitting in Phill Niblock’s Kitchen
Monotype Records mono042

A nearly three-quarters of an hour exercise in time-shifting and post-production recomposing, this fascinating if roguish slab of sound subordinates the expected timbres of so-called real instruments and already recorded CDs to extensive remixing. The crackling, linear result can stand on its own as a sound field. But the question about experiments like this remains: if the result is going to be so unlike the original item as Lon Chaney was following his transformation into the Wolfman, why start from an already existing base? Could not the same result be obtained by composing or creating electronically a piece of music with no antecedent?

Organically the genesis of the CD resulted from violinist/pianist Dan Warburton systematically using a computer program to first time-stretch all the original data on every If Bwana AKA Al Margolis CD he posses into multiple 45-minute slabs of sound and then editing the dense results into a single track. That mix used at a subsequent concert added clarinet timbres and more electronics to the newly reconstituted result, to which Margolis himself subsequently altered by adding further ambient sounds as well as distant echoes of passing traffic, as well as a time-stretched and pitch-shifted piano record he owned featuring Warburton.

The entity thus presented here is ever-shifting and phantasmagoric, and which hums along with crackles, quivers, abrasive rubs, echoes plus the odd siren and/or voice interpolation. Save its creation, the CD seems to have no other earthly context.

Occasionally among the flat-line oscillations the merest hint of strained reed textures, garbled and mumbled voices or high-pitched whistling sound streams arise and disappear. Besides that, the dense wave form sequence is infrequently breached by staccato clips, what could be the result of aluminum foil crackles or plops of a solid object against a hard surface. A blurry whoosh which suggests a mixture of castanets clanks with unspooling tape deck flanges completes the sound picture. Since the disk was literally (re)created in Niblock’s European kitchen, the title is apt if confusing.

Despite the shout-out to Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room”, unlike that famed electro-acoustic composition “I’m Sitting in Phill Niblock’s Kitchen” is actually practical and reactive not sonically revolutionary. However those who prefer a cerebral strategy behind an ambient soundscape creation could be wise to investigate it.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. I’m Sitting in Phill Niblock’s Kitchen/Speed Study

Personnel: Dan Warburton (sub-bass piano, Bwana remix and post-production) and Al Margolis (post-post-production, passing traffic and kitchen noises)