Phillip Wilkerson






del·i·quesce, verb: to become liquid, to melt away — everything one needs to know is in these important liner notes off Florida-based ambioneer Phillip Wilkerson’s tape Deliquesce, but finding the fluid granuloma and the various liquedous riverbeds amid the two soundscapes of twenty minutes justifies an in-depth review. Released in April 2014 on Matthew Barlow’s Twin Springs Tapes label in Asheville, North Carolina and available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp, the strictly limited edition of 25 tapes enthralls with a front artwork that is both grainy/sharp and veiled/blurry, an important visual statement of duality that is reflected in the two long-form tracks. Housing four to five vignettes and motifs each, Deliquesce is the earthen counterpoint to Wilkerson’s space travels and solar solaces à la Amorphous Worlds (2007) and Sun Tracer (2010). This is not to say that the synth expert and pianist has thrown every dark matter pad over board, but it shows the intrinsic focus of coupling the darker, sanguine sounds with field recordings of birds and rain as well as glassy surfaces, metallic patterns and aural soils. Music released on tapes has experienced a strong resurrection over the past years, but often enough, the medium is not the message anymore. Deliquesce differs in that both of its sides are strikingly different, yet at the same time strongly attached to each other, making them not only cohesive, but adamantly congruent as well. The press blurb furthermore notes that this tape is Wilkerson’s interpretation of spring. Its omnipresence is undoubtedly noticeable, so much so that the loftiness might be mistaken for vestiges of Space Ambient. This interpretation would not be wrong, as the darker currents are supercharged with galactic protrusions, albeit on a smaller, less mighty scale. What else Deliquesce has in store is delineated below.


Fluidity in rectangular form, the delinquent: Deliquesce. Picture by Matthew Barlow.


Alas, the introductory paragraph has already been written, or else I could have announced another exploratory Space Ambient work by Phillip Wilkerson; everyone would have believed it after absorbing the first few seconds of the – otherwise highly rhizomatic – endeavor. Launching with a mélange of heterodyned pink noise, appended diffusions and a hatched murkiness that is hopefully more akin to a steamer’s signal than a dark matter-encapsulating reticulation of portent, Side A of Deliquesce opens after approximately one minute with an almost elating fanfare of semi-clandestine synth formations. Even though these movements inherit the arcane gigantomachy of the opening prelude, there is warmth emanating from their lofty appearance. However, there is a certain gravitas intertwined which pushes these helicoidal airflows down to earth where they regain a palpable gestalt. A short pause leads to the second segue, a seraphic rise and angelic downfall of billow-like synth acatalepsies whose elasticized, prolonged physiognomy makes this piece a proper Drone artifact after all. The first wave is loaded with cherubic purity, exuding a pristine iciness, but the second long wave already emits a metallic-industrial superstructure complete with vitreous catenae, diaphanous glitters and rubicund backing drones. Cinematic and mysterious, coxswain Wilkerson makes sure that the apex of that wave is not too hazardous, allowing an evenly mellow dispersal of the textures. The third nameless inclusion on side A spawns pompous structures of faux alpenhorns, argentine oscillations, heating loop recirculations and an overall atmosphere of ambiguity and twilight, for the opaque darkness is later mercilessly aglow with sylvan cloudlets and euphonious braidings of gold. Rain sets in, washing away the cauterized particles of the inorganic alloy for several minutes. This field recording is not gimmicky; it is majestic and solemn in its own way. It is also the clear-cut sign that Deliquesce lives up to its title and has reached earthen soil for good.


The newfound beauty of the coppice with all of its tendrils and smells is not only resurrected on side B, but continued, maintained and nurtured throughout the runtime of 20 minutes. The gurgling rain now resembles more of a shower sound than a celestial streamlet, but this cavernous artificial sound only boosts the zenscape that is about to unfold: classic piano prongs become enmeshed with fragilely crystalline synth coils. Pentatonicism is in the air, the kind of non-clichéd Far Eastern traits and straits that are found in Tetsu Inoue’s minimal albums such as Inland (2007). Phillip Wilkerson balances the triptych of sound, sustain and silence, and it is almost a pity that this first vignette runs for four minutes only, as the delicate afterglow and finish of each tone is gorgeously incorporated by the aqueous aurora that surrounds the scenery. Luckily, Deliquesce continues this particular interplay through a piano arrangement at heart. With the piano now in the limelight and its blotchy tones being held together by aureate coils, the decay of each tone is drowned in echoes, making the listener aware of the hollowness that is suddenly spreading. It has been there all along, but cleverly camouflaged by the masses of rain and water. The third section of side B is yet again keen on putting the piano to the forefront, but this time the agglutinating legato sinews are more verdured and vigorous, even churchly, radiating an ecclesiastic incandescence that is only put to a halt by the comparably sudden appearance of another piano-centric piece. The impetus and directness of the keys is so vigorous and vibrant that one might mistake this instrument for a clavichord or celesta. Hued in tramontane echoes, this is Wilkerson’s only acoustic mirage and the tape’s last actual melody-based composition. The grand finale is delivered by a dawn chorus of mirthfully chirping birds. The plasticity of this field recording is already good enough; coupled with the awakening of the real-world birds outside the listener’s abode, the blending only augments both the intrinsic truth of Deliquesce and the current surroundings one is situated in.


What is the primary source of excitement that wafts through Deliquesce? Is it the wonderful presence of the birds and vulturine creatures in exactly the right moments, during the kick-off sections and endpoints of the respective sides of the tapes? Is it the duality of a synth-fueled and a piano-based side? Or is the earthbound state and the interim denial of the troposphere the surprising tendency to worship? Naturally, it should be all these things mentioned above, and more: the equilibration between arcana and benignancy, between shadow and light is as crucial a force in Deliquesce, even though their simultaneity is a pretty big factor in Space Ambient music as well. In the meantime, I was surprised to like both sides of Deliquesce equally, the big deal being that the occurrence of piano arrangements in a synth album is usually scything through the otherwise flawlessly managed aesthetic harmony. Not so on Deliquesce. Side B is wondrously soothing and balmy without ever facing the danger of becoming all too hammock-friendly or irrelevant. Since the piano is mostly accompanied by either synthetic structures or cleverly (post-)processed and stretched molecules, and considering the fact that pentatonic tones reign at certain junctions, the circumambience and its core work impressively well. Side A is of course equally attractive, but also a bit more akin to Phillip Wilkerson’s well-known formula, so that fans of his Space Ambient works will find more excitement here. And true enough, the darker tones, the thickly wadded clouds and mucoid superfluids are more encompassing here, providing a wideness by means of their complexion, not by the lack of it as is the case on side B. Lacking something has a negative connotation, but on Deliquesce Phillip Wilkerson showcases the adage less is more on side B and at the same time enchants with a fluxion of interesting textures on side A. Each side complements the other. And through both of them holy waters and feathery creatures float.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 340: Phillip Wilkerson – Deliquesce (2014). Originally published on May 7, 2014 at