Posted on Jul 14th 2011 01:34 am
FIRE! with JIM O’ROURKE
Rune Grammofon 2011
04 Tracks. 41mins24secs
When three became four, at least the time of a couple of sessions. Swedish super power trio Fire!, which personnel comprises saxophonist extraordinaire Mats Gustafsson, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin, became a quartet when they were joined by Jim O’Rourke, who contributes electric guitar, synthesizer and harmonica here.
Released two years ago, Fire!’s first opus, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, was as incendiary as the trio’s chosen name led to think. Combining elements of avant-garde jazz and experimental psychedelic rock into a series of progressive improvisations, they somehow managed to transcend their respective work to create an extremely vibrant and invigorating soundtrack. With O’Rourke on board to broaden the scope of the band, they are even more fired up and eager to blast their own boundaries, however loose, into oblivion.
For almost a minute and a half, Werliin, sent out ahead of the rest of the troop, is heard preparing the ground with a regimented pattern on opening piece Are You Both Still Unreleased?. There is something quite peaceful in the way he settles the tempo, but soon the drums are progressively surrounded by hypnotic bass pulses, but the focus rapidly switches to Gustafsson’s increasingly plaintive phrases. At first extremely discreet, O’Rourke’s presence becomes more tangible in the second half as sulfurous strips of guitars begin to respond to the call of the sax, until this strange ritual grow to occupy every last corner of empty space remaining.
It is once again Werliin who sets the pace on … Please, I Am Released as Berthling sets himself on a monotone path as he hits a single note throughout, but they are rapidly joined by blazing shards of processed guitars, twisted into unimaginable shapes for a while, until razor-sharp blades of sax tear the sonic space in increasingly incisive blasts of energy. The mood changes quite drastically on By Whom And Why Am I Previously Unreleased?, the shortest of the four tracks, as the ensemble adopt a resolutely more subtle approach. Here, O’Rourke swaps guitars for harmonica as Werliin recalls Thomas Strønen in the way he layers percussions.
Things become much more complex with Happy Ending Borrowing Yours. For almost twenty minutes, the four protagonists progress through a densely saturated noise sequence, fueled by layers of saturated guitars and feedback, as if, for the first five minutes, they were set free (released?) and were all exploring their own individual space within the confines of a thick wall of sound. A series of sparse clearings follow, sustained by a sluggish drums and bass groove, with only occasional shards of electric guitars to pierce the sudden torpor. At first almost unnoticeable, Gustafsson tears through the slumber with blistering blows but never kicks the thing back into life. It is almost as if the four were proceeding in slow motion here, contrasting greatly with previous assaults of energy.
What characterized some of the longer pieces on the trio’s debut was a propensity of build up momentum over the course of a whole track, starting in relatively subdued fashion and gaining density as the pieces developed. This is still the case on three of the four pieces here, but each time, the quartet do this with a level of urgency which sets this record apart from even its predecessor. With Jim O’Rourke, Fire! have found the perfect companion, and as this is very likely to be a temporary arrangement, it would be utterly foolish not to savour every second of it to the full.
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