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Tomas Phillips

Intermission / Six Feuilles
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Intermission / Six Feuilles
  • For those who continue to extend the range of instruments – not simply mangle the sounds they make – Phillips’ Intermission / Six Feuilles stands as an object lesson in the richness of latency (that is to say the interval between stimulus and reaction). Open and cloud-chamber-like in structure, between the collisions that comprise the body of this work there occur pauses that in turn harbor such profoundly beautiful extensions of the sound just heard prior, in such seamless and natural-seeming ways, that it would be easy to assume Mr. Phillips had invented some device capable of allowing him to grab a sound still living in the air, reel it into his grasp and then slowly, deliberately extend that sound into one immediately new and still recognizable, still a piano, still related, still different and still. There are many examples of this level of waveform manipulation making the rounds these days, but few approach the utter purposeful naturalness of what happens here, their subtly and perfection yielding a pointed contrast and offering a focal point to the sometimes jagged procession of surrounding events and silences. By establishing this technique to offer a more active place of rest than those specific forebears, Intermission / Six Feuilles extends not only the range of instruments, but the reach of a well-defined, even well-worn aesthetic. This “more than an homage” to Morton Feldman and his own “Intermissions” displays many of the hallmarks of that work, and the work of John Cage as well. But more importantly, the techniques of manipulation and transformation bring the compositional techniques and overall aesthetic of those two men in contact with possibilities that remained unimaginable in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, Phillips maintains an excellent sense of proportion throughout, never yielding that which is affecting to that which can be little more than effects.
    (e/i Magazine, US)

  • Following Tomas Phillips collaboration with Dean King on Non Visual Objects, I’ve been thoroughly looking forward to hearing this new work on uber-label Line. True to form this work is outstanding in every way and, although some people will no doubt find it fairly challenging, there’s an abstract beauty that lies at its heart. Created from a desire to combine digital and acoustic instrumentation in a particular compositional environment you’ll find traditional instruments such as piano and koto locking horns with ultra-refined electronic manipulation. The shifts that this allows are incredibly intriguing and form a naturally engaging narrative throughout. From moments of oblique silence through to drone-based section with deep, resonant textures… there’s nothing like getting this on a pair of headphones to truly get the most out of it. Contemporary electronic composition is really right at its peak at the moment and with releases of this calibre it’s not hard to see why. A magnificent CD. Recommended.
    (Smallfish, UK)

  • Just when you thought he couldn’t outdo himself, hot on the heels of his duo CD with Dean King A Travers le Bord [Non Visual Objects], Canadian artist/composer Tomas Phillips returns with his latest opus. One of the main reasons for the existence of this CD was to create an environment where acoustic instrumentation met its cousins from the digital field. The two elements had to melt ceaselessly so as not to be pulled apart. With a direct homage to Morton Feldman [title is a reference to Feldman’s series of “Intermissions”], Phillips works with vast amounts of space and silence. As a single note is struck on the piano, it is then followed by an extended period of silence. After a multiple cycle of what sounds like a notated piano solo, Philips introduces a sheet of serial static. These buzz around and dance in the listener’s head for a while. Ponderous and delicately delivered piano is joined by occasional koto that is processed electronically. Abstract colouring and tender shifts in texture and tonal manipulations ensure the sounds are fascinating throughout. Piece’s 38 minute allows for enough material to be packed into a short span of time, all with enough first-rate ideas. Limited to a mere 600 copies, ensure you pick up a copy before regret comes knocking at your door.
    (Gaz-Eta, Poland)

  • MINIMALISMO COLTO: Canadese, classe 1969, Tomas Philips ha in passato utilizzato diverse denominazioni per siglare la propria musica, Sea Optic, Lisbon, Eto Ami. Da qualche tempo, a seguire una tendenza generale sempre piu diffusa, e tornato alla ragione anagrafica la quale meglio si addice al colto profilo autoriale (avreste immaginato Feldman utilizzare uno pseudonimo?) che ne informa l’attivita discografica e quella parallela di collaborazioni in ambito installativo, teatrale e performativo. Dall’esordio in proprio su Trente Oiseaux (“On Dit” del 2003) a quest’album per la Line c’e l’intera parabola creativa di Phillips, iscritta esattamente nel perimetro tracciato dalle due etichette e qui rivelata in una asciutta partitura per pianoforte, koto ed elettronica, minuziose intelaiature di suoni organici trattati con lunghi tempi di decadimento e un’occhio di riguardo esattamente all’opera del gia citato compositore newyorchese. (7)
    (Blow Up, Italy)

  • …of course Tomas Phillips isn’t that unknown. His CD for Trente Oiseaux we didn’t hear, and the three releases that we reviewed all were in collaboration with others, such as I8U (Vital Weekly 515), Tobias C. van Veen (Vital Weekly 499) and more recently with Dean King (Vital Weekly 425). These three releases were all fine excursions into the world of microsound, and ‘Intermission/Six Feuilles’ is no different, except that it is his first solo CD we hear. Phillips takes the acoustic instruments, piano and koto (a Japanese string instrument) into the world of digital processing. Well, or perhaps vice versa. Sparse notes that reveal a love of Morton Feldman, although certainly at the beginning Phillips uses more notes than Feldman would do, the work evolves of it’s almost thirty-eight minute course into something that goes down in volume and activity, it seems. Sparseness, silence, tranquility: it all gets bigger and bigger, despite some occasional ‘outbursts’, which still happens here and there. Phillips places himself in the tradition of Bernard Gunter for his use of instruments, and also along the lines of Roel Meelkop, Marc Behrens and Richard Chartier in use of silent electronics. A great release.
    (Vital Weekly, NL)

  • To give you an idea of Tomas Phillips’ pedigree as a composer of abstract electronic minimalism, his first published work appeared on Bernhard Gunter’s seminal Trente Oiseaux imprint; one of the most revered labels within the genre. Trente Oiseaux’s Morton Feldman fixation has certainly rubbed off on Phillips, and this latest work directly references Feldman’s Intermissions series, taking the form of a single lengthy piece that mutates slowly and with astonishing attention to detail. Intermission/Six Feuilles‘ unfolding narrative runs through a series of miniature movements made up of sine waves, amplified textures, the gentlest of koto plucks and of course, the sparseness and dislocation of Feldman-esque piano phrases. It’s the deftness with which Phillips sews all this together that makes this release special. Each section is punctuated by brief silences, evoking the feeling of montage as if the whole piece is a collection of scenes, a feeling that’s greatly aided by how tangible and seemingly physical Phillips’ sound palette is: there’s a real atmosphere – even a sense of location to the recordings and sound material assembled here, no matter how abstract their form might be. An extremely beautiful work, Intermission/Six Feuilles comes very highly recommended indeed.
    (Boomkat, UK)