Ambient Forces

An exclusive collaboration of ambience, instruments and percussion at Belfast's Sonic Arts Research Centre

The music of Northern Irish duo Ambient Forces is difficult to describe. With acclaimed composers Alan Niblock on double bass and Roy Mitchell on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Ambient Forces inhabit a sonic world of odd timings, unorthodox scales and - to the untrained ear - no discernible structure.

Their approach to performance and recording is unorthodox, too. Debut album Ambient Forces features recordings produced in selected locations such as St Anne's Cathedral, Harland and Wolff's paint hangar and Fermanagh's Marble Arch Caves. 

Teaming up with percussionist Paul Clarvis for a one-off live performance at Belfast's Sonic Arts Research Centre, Niblock and Mitchell will use the evening to launch second album Speakup.

A third record, consisting of a series of live recordings (including their forthcoming performance at the Sonic Arts Research Centre) follows.

Is their music free jazz? Not exactly. It lacks the essential rhythm that jazz demands. Is it audio art, like a Willie Doherty video piece without pictures? Getting warmer, perhaps. Others might ask if the music of Ambient Forces is even music at all.

'I don't want it to be overly intellectual,' admits Niblock, all too aware of the 'intellectual' brush that such music is traditionally tarred with - by critics and the listening public alike. Ambient Forces seek to explore creative ideas and spontaneously produce coherent free form compositions.

'It's not pop music. It's not rock music. But it is art, with elements of jazz. It's spontaneous. It's impulsive.' 

Such is the vitality and vigour inherent in Niblock and Mitchell improvisations that Musician magazine has celebrated them with gusto, saying that 'the interplay between the two musicians is nothing short of telepathic and the playing quite exquisite'.

Niblock is involved in teaching and facilitating workshops in schools and colleges throughout Northern Ireland, and has performed with a wide variety of local and international artists, including The Commitments, Ken Poplowski and the Irish Jazz Orchestra.

'I've only locked into what I really want to do since this project started,' says Niblock. 

'It's two musicians coming together who love the act of improvisation, of creating music by way of particular ideas. Slow as it might have been for me to get to this point musically, I don't think I'll ever get to the end result. But I'll certainly keep pushing.' 

Click here for your chance to win Ambient Forces CDs!

Ambient Forces and Paul Clarvis perform at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast, September 18 at 8pm.

Tickets are £10/£7 concessions, available from the Belfast Welcome Centre (028 9024 6609) or online at the Moving On Music website.