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Physics



Since San Diego's Physics is an instrumental band, it would be easy to compare them to Trans Am, Tortoise, or Godspeed You Black Emperor!, but Physics is neither as verging-on-muzak-jazzy as the first two, nor as pretentiously aggressive as the latter. And unlike heroin-rock bands like Mogwai, Physics doesn't follow the quiet, quiet, quiet, LOUD, LOUD, LOUD model. Instead of assaulting you with jarring noise spasms, they slowly build to a crescendo, steadily mixing layers of guitars, synthesizers, and drums to create songs that are by turns hypnotic, mournful, shrill, and soaring.

Their first album, Physics1, is a collection of singles, live recordings, and studio tracks from 1994 to 1996, all of which are centered around the use of a single chord called the "Physics Chord." In these early projects, one guitarist plays the Physics Chord repeatedly, while the other musicians build the song around him, using looped found-sound recordings, synthesizers, percussion, and additional guitars. Their songs are crafted rather than composed, built from an initial idea, theme, or phrase, and then added to until the layers converge and swirl around in a narcotic tableau.

On Physics2, their second full-length, they continue to craft intricate impressionistic pieces: this is space rock in the most literal sense of the word, suggesting collapsing time and endless journeys to distant galaxies and other dimensions. The album contains both compositions and improvisations, including a 35-minute, half-improvised live piece consisting of three interweaving themes that effortlessly meld into each other, both lulling and building tension. Synthesizers, drums, guitars, and snippets of wave radio come together to create washes of sound evocative of shooting across the Arizona desert in a souped-up spacecraft. The songs are sometimes even painful, as the band manipulates pure tones at unexpected places in these otherwise meditative compositions, blasting the listener with pure sound.

In the five-plus years of their existence, Physics has had more members than the average high school marching band, including moonlighters from Three Mile Pilot, Crash Worship, Chune, Heavy Vegetable, Powerdresser, Thingy, and Optiganally Yours, among others. But the whole is greater than (and quite different from) the sum of its parts: the members of Physics are able to explore a musical range beyond the reach of other bands, creating a beautiful and powerful statement about the nature of both science and sound.