The Dorf/Phil Niblock

December 21, 2020

Umland Records 31

The Dorf is a band in a hurry. At least that’s the impression advanced by this two-CD set that reproduces a concert in Dortmund, Germany. Conducted by saxophonist Jan Klare the 34-piece configuration not only races through three pieces by Klare at steeplechase velocity, but also tackles a double-length version of American composer Phil Niblock’s drone piece “Baobab” that while clocking in at 46 minutes somehow seems to speed by in the duration of a long eye blink.

As concentrated as a slab of marble, the key to appreciate “Baobab” is to let the dense sequence proceed without expecting conventional highs and lows. Instead, as the movement almost overwhelms, mites of division flash by. Early on the shuddering power appears to include occasional voltage hisses, and by mid-point buzzing drones pushed out by each section of the orchestra seems to become deeper and darker. Wavering beats can be sensed within the hypnotic consolidation, and while the result is an extension of affiliated modulation, a generic calm is present along with raw potency. With no division of individual timbres the track unrolls until it stops.

If “Baobab” can be likened to experiencing non-religious spirituality, than the three Klare compositions are the antithesis They are bouncy, polyphonic romps that could be expressed by congregation members scurrying away after their profound ecclesiastical experience. Although there are still no solos per se, hand claps, harmonized voices plus glissandi and spiccato extensions from the strings are more prominent along with treble reed puffs and shaking clanks from the drummers. The concluding “Split” offers the most demarcation with a solemn introduction, a middle section of near-mariachi brass and percussion pumping that leads to a relaxed penultimate sequence presaging a steadily inflating every-instrument encompassing chord that pans across the sound field and climaxes with pops and backwards flanges.

However “F-Lan” is most characteristic of the Dorf identity. Mixing staccato cries and wordless speaking-in-tongues, bird-like cries and gurgles from the vocalists, identifying string plucks, reed smears and tuba blares are clearly audible. Eventually the piece is defined as a cacophonous mélange that is one part peeping synthesizer whizzes, one part jet-plane-like drone and one part voice mumbles. Eventually the final sequence stretches through a self-contained trumpet blare, an elongated fiddle jump and a conclusive percussion clank.

Dorf means village in German and this definition of is a multi-person location improvised music followers should visit.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Baobab CD2: 1. Rich 2. F-Lan 3. Split

Personnel: David Heiss (trumpet); Moritz Anthes, Max Wehner, Adrian Prost (trombone); Lex Morsey (tuba); Sebastian Gerhartz, Felix Fritsche, Stefanie Heine, Luise Volkmann (saxophone); Florian Walter (EWI, saxophone) Jan Klare (saxophone, conductor); Guido Schlösser, Fabian Neubauer, Anja Kreysing (keyboard); Andreas Wahl, Christian Hammer, Rraissa Mehner, Serge Corteyn (guitar); Julia Brüssel, Martin Verborg, Ludger Schmidt, Emily Witbrodt (cello); Johannes Nebel, Volker Kamp (bass); Simon Camatta, Marvin Blamberg (drums); Oliver Siegel (synthesizer); Gilda Razani (Theremin); Achim Zepezauer, Kai Niggemann (electronics); Oona Kastner (vocals/keyboard); Marie Daniels, Hanna Schörken, Maika Küster (vocals); Denis Cosmar (sound)