Thing of the Day

Fire! With added Jim O'Rourke

July 6th 2011

A New album from Swedish avant-jazz power trio Fire! is always something to excite, and this time it comes with added colour from Sonic Youth/Gastr Del Sol experimentalist Jim O’Rourke..

Fire! With Jim O RourkeFIRE! With JIM O’ROURKE – Unreleased (Rune Grammofon) – Swedish trio Fire! are back with a second album, a Fire album (or anything involving Mats Gustafsson) is always with taking notice of, they’re something of a supergroup in their own right and that’s before you throw Mr O’Rourke into the equation. 

Mats Gustafsson - probably best known as a member of excellent powerjazz outfit The Thing - plays a brooding baritone sax alongside his manipulation of electronics and lines on the Fender Rhodes. Johan Berthling, of Tape (as well as being founder of the respected Hapna record label), is well known on the freejazz improv circuit, he knits it all together and moves it all along with his impressive electric bass lines, while Andreas Werliin, from Wildbirds and Peacedrums, handles the rather colourful drums and imaginative percussion (quite a change from the pretty alt.folk of Wildbirds). Chicago’s Jim O’Rourke (via New York and currently Tokyo), probably best known for his parts played in Sonic Youth and Gastr Del Sol, joins the trio this time, the respected experimentalist adds some brilliantly understated electric guitar, a healthy undercurrent of feedback, some synthesiser and just a touch of harmonica.   

Unreleased is only four tracks long, a full album, though, something like thirty-eight minutes in all with an eleven minute opener and a seventeen minute closing piece. Four instrumental pieces that really do brood as they come to a powerfully tight full-boil.  Brooding, dark, slowly powerfully building note by note, sound by big sound, dark colour by rich dark colour - heavy sounds (heavy in terms of thick fat sound, not in some kind of rocking heavy metal notion) - walls of bass baritone, electronic fuzz weaving through that parping sax, throbbing bass guitar and very colourful percussion. The bass is the glue holding it all together as Jim o’Rourke adds the layers of detailed colour somewhere in the deep forest of sound. Mats Gustafsson's Fire!

It isn’t about noise, I mean it is noise, but not about an intense barrage of noise, it is intense and there is some kind of barrage, but Unreleased is far more about powerful brooding restraint and space to breathe. The (massive) power of restraint rather than being intensely in your face. The four of them take it down to almost a whisper at times, a metronomic drum echo, a loose snare and electronic/saxophone background hum – an intense quiet, a tension in that space they create, a foreboding of buzz and static restraint, you’re waiting for it to well up and explode again but Fire! are never that obvious, you can’t read where they’re going, you have to wait for them to take you there. 

Fire! are a thrilling band, and this second album is every bit as compelling as the first… and they just took that quiet bit even further down, then the saxophone cried like some kind of distressed animal stuck out in the mud in darkness - see, most avant-jazz power bands would have just exploded again there, Fire! are a little different… Fire are a compelling band, they’re an exciting band, they’re a very powerful experience, the sight of this good looking CD emerging out of the post pile had this reviewer excited, they didn’t let me down, been listing to pretty much nothing else for days now.  

Unreleased was released this week, they threaten a UK tour and an appearance at the Supersonic festival in October. (And what an inspired website url they have…) 

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