Review: Phicus – Liquid (Tripticks Tapes, Mar 26)

Album cover of Liquid by PhicusWith Liquid, Spanish trio Phicus takes a significant step beyond their previous work toward something much greater. Recorded as a stylistic foil of sorts to the sessions that yielded last year’s fiery but ultimately edgeless Solid, the lengthy improvised takes that became “Hg” and “Br” (interestingly, both mercury and bromine are liquids at room temperature, but together, as HgBr2, they form a crystalline solid) are patient, considered, and meditative. A careful extended-technique delicacy in each member’s approach results in the band’s most spellbindingly atmospheric interactions yet: muscular double-bass lumbers are traded for hypnotizing legato and high-on-the-neck squeaking that bears an uncanny resemblance to some kind of brass instrument; shredding scales and dissonant chords have been dissolved into Surface of the Earth–esque amp rumble; and the skilled hands that once harnessed virtuosic percussion cacophony now deal in textural resonance and feedback-wracked Prévost bowings. The entirety of the nearly full-LP-length “Hg” swells with subtle but deliberate momentum, slowly asserting the true extent of its massiveness like an impossibly sluggish subway train emerging from a tunnel, brakes squealing and sparking, heavy metal hull groaning and grumbling, and it’s only once this train has departed that one can truly fathom what was in front of their eyes/ears to begin with. The more diminutive “Br,” which runs for just over 12% of the previous track’s duration, brings the tape to a fitting close with fragile, almost elegiac strings, strikes, and shrieks. For those who sorely miss trio-era AMM, Marginal Consort, or (more recently) Mural.

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