So, in the spirit of been there, done it, got the t-shirt, I was fortunate enough to see one of Phicus’ early live performances* (maybe even the first – ooh!). And much as I like their recordings to date, it’s this one that best approximates the rush, the energy, the feeling of waves and eddies of raw sound swirling around me from the cramped environs of Barcelona’s Robadors 23…

Phicus’ sound is guitar-heavy, no doubt about it. But opener HgO eases us in with drone-ominous arco bass and billowing sheets of cymbal. So far, so atmospheric and then Fages’ howling feedback guitar (loud howl, quiet howl, intricate howl, blunt howl) begins to speak – harsh, searing tones, precisely controlled. It’s exhilarating. Pickups groan and scream, tachycardic drums carry a metallic gleam, and the bass lurks with playful menace. Phicus are no simple noisefest, the whole of Solid is a poised yin-yang of brutality and elegance.

The language may appear simple, of limited vocabulary, but that’s belied by the dynamic breadth of expression that Fages, Reviriego and Trilla manage to throw out there. The sound connects with some zone below or beyond thought, tickling, prodding and bludgeoning that part of the brain that just wants to shout for the sheer joy of shouting. Eloquent playing with a somehow intellectual poise provokes a primitively satisfying response.

Back in 2017, Phicus (actually, bassist Àlex Reviriego) self-described themselves as, “Keiji Haino meets AMM, everything on steroids. Lovely.” At the risk of sacrilege, this album does it for me in a way that AMM never did.

* (Having re-read what I thought at the time, it seems I liked it.)


Astral Spirits

Ferran Fages: electric guitar
Àlex Reviriego: double-bass
Vasco Trilla: drums

Solid is available for download from the Astral Spirits Bandcamp page.

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