Phicus+1 – 13th July at Robadors 23

Ferran Fages – electric guitar
Àlex Reviriego – bass
Vasco Trilla – drums, percussion
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Joachim Badenhorst – saxophone

Robadors 23, Barcelona

Phicus return to Robadors 23, this time accompanied by Joachim Badenhorst on reeds. Last time, I burbled on about “matching and contrasting tones and textures… layered and discarded in an unstoppable kineticism,” and yes, I’ll stand by those words. Phicus are carving out their own intense brand of precision disorder. Passages of glorious frenzy alternate with more meditative minimalism, and throughout there’s a constant energy, a seething potential being tapped and channelled.

With the variety of extended techniques on display from all four musicians, it’s difficult sometimes to identify which alien sound is produced by whom but to give a flavour…

…Trilla’s bowed cymbals herald a rainbow of percussion, he seems to almost caress the kit with casual rigour; Reviriego’s creaking-door arco bass ascends to off-the-fingerboard piercing tones; Badenhorst’s low sax wails circle (as does his breath) into a screeching ululation; Fages’ deceptively gentle feedback and pickup abuse becomes a slow torrent of pings, bleeps and resonant humbucker belches… Like a speeded-up audio of evolution, the sound bends and twists, divides, morphs and blooms, and the energy throughout is palpable, filling the small room, pulsing in the chest. There’s a virulent beauty to the density of sound, augmented by a filigree of fleeting grace tones – percussive thwaps, shimmering gonglike cymbals, staccato electrified strings, and it all condenses into a slowly ascending entreaty. Is it beckoning us to follow it up or calling something down?

Phicus are really a percussion trio – alongside Trilla, Fages and Reviriego both take a highly physical approach to the guitar and bass, often beating the sounds out of the instruments. It’s exhilarating to watch and it gives the resulting sound picture a sharp and vivid attack. Against this backdrop, Badenhorst’s sax adds an altogether more fluid effect – not so much immersed in the ritual as dancing around it, casting light into the corners.

And ritual is what this is. If the core Phicus trio has a ‘thing’, it seems to be the creation of otherworldly, subterranean (sub-aquatic?) soundscapes that seem to… summon… something. Something dark though not necessarily malign. New improvisatory gods are being called upon and they’re tempted to put in an appearance.

The two-word version: sophisticated noise 😉

I hear there’s a disc due soon(-ish)… can’t wait.

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ADDENDUM: an excellent video excerpt from the gig, on Antoni Robert’s highly recommended site, arobert.bcn-cluster.com: