Tabs Out | Phicus – Liquid

Phicus – Liquid

5.14.21 by Matty McPherson

Last year, double bassist (and occasional Dirty Projectors card carrying member) Nat Baldwin released Autonomia, a trilogy of bass improvisations spread across three labels. The trilogy capper, Endnotes, also happened to signify the inaugural release in Baldwin’s new tape label, TripTicksTapes, stationed out of Portland, ME. Now granted, Portland, ME seems to be grabbing a smidgen of attention for its metal scene. But free jazz? In this economy?! Well, Baldwin’s TTT thinks both can coexist. While I’m eager to see what Baldwin does for jazz in Northeastern America, already he’s summoned saxophone spiritualist Patrick Shiroishi with Resting in the Heart of Green Shade and a new adventure from Phicus, entitled Liquid — the emphasis of today’s focus.

The trio known as Phicus made a nifty splash on Astral Spirits last year, with Solid, an album that turned jazz into sludgy, hardcore noise freakouts. So, how about another round of kick-punch free jazz ditties? “Not so fast!” Phicus retorts, “for every loud and aggressive impulse there’s an instinct that leads back to the more meditative and static territories.” Thus arrived Liquid, a cohesive 38 minute live-improvisation (“Hg”) from the same April 2019 sessions that produced Solid. “A ying for every yang.” Indeed so.

Phicus in meditative mode across “Hg” still raises hairs. You wonder if Ferran Fages’ sustained guitar tone is actually about to blow out, as it circles over Vasco Trilla’s wind chimes. Or, if Trilla is actually using these percussive blasts to subliminally signal to double bassist Àlex Reviriego to break his fickle-yet-tense composure. Of course though, none of this happens. Phicus hold an orderly (if not unnerving) court; each parcel of silence is an invitation further down the spiral. As the tape continues, the trio becomes increasingly interlocked, culminating in a gorgeous, sustained outro of Fages’ stray guitar notes and the most minimal pitter-patter Trilla can concoct. To sleep to this music, you’d have to be insane. Yet, to ponder over the photonegative qualities of this album for 40-odd minutes? An absolute joy! Wait, did I flip those two around?

Sonically, two things popped into my mind as I thought about the tape. Firstly, is Astral Spirits alum Like Stewart, whose approach to improvisation has revealed a deft understanding of how easy it can be to navigate improv with a degree of zen (a la Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier) and still discombobulate it all into revolutionary noise explored within Blacks’ Myths. With Liquid, Phicus have revealed they are fellow travelers and seek to navigate that range. Now though, this meditative range Phicus toys within is maybe not as revolutionary inspired; it kinda recalls C. Lavender’s zones of deep listening. The way she tackles noise by taking it apart into wave after wave of a sound bath ain’t too far removed from Liquid. Thus now, I’m left to wonder what the gas state will do for Phicus…

Edition of 100 Tapes available from TripTicksTapes

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