Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fire!

Fire! (trio)
Mats Gustafsson (sax, keys)
Johan Berthling (bass, organ)
Andreas Werlin (drums)
(photo: Johan Doden Dahlroth)

Of all the many projects Mats Gustafsson has been involved in, Fire! is probably one of my favourites (outside of his mainstay, The Thing). The Swedish trio put on a mixture of heavy rock overtones, hypnotic psychedelia and free jazz motifs all culminating in unbelievable sound and rhythm. Since their formation in 2009, the group have quickly forge a place in the avant consciousness of this listener and I'm sure many of you. Crossing the various styles previously mentioned--all the while making sound seamless and inviting.

You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago is a great starting point. The performances are intense but the sound low-key and meditative. Berthling plays a big role in "But Sometimes I Am" and "If I Took Your Hand." His playing feels like the heavy heartbeat of dying days. "You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago" is humorous and infectious. Hand claps and two-toned notes from Gustafsson increase and revolve like a haunted carousel ride and quietly fade into the distance.

Unreleased? sees the trio teaming with guitar/sound manipulator, Jim O'Rouke, creating a more muscular yet cerebral sound. Gustafsson and O'Rouke stretch the lines to a breaking point. Berthling and Werlin add depth and a small melody underneath the distortion of the opening piece "Are You Both Still Unreleased?" "Please, I Am Released" and "Happy Ending Borrowing Yours" expands the groups focus with more improvising, yet still coming together solidly at the end to psychedelic effect. Werlin and O'Rouke both lead the charge with blistering lines that come crashing against the screeches of Gustafsson horn. 

A similar tone is taken on the trio third album, In The Mouth - A Hand. This session also filled out by guitarist, Oren Ambarchi. Gustafsson sounding energized and the quartet challenging each other at every turn. Now the trio have been playing together for over 3 years between their own projects. They sound full and ever expanding.

The droning and avalanche of sound on "A Man Who Might Have Been Screaming" and "I Am Sucking For A Bruise" are intense and almost reminds me of mid-period Spiritualized (circa "Cop Shoot Cop") and Can. "He Wants To Sleep In A Dream" sees Ambarchi and Gustafsson repeating one tone for a majority of the piece until the entire group finally gather for a cacophony of sound that is intense but somehow funky in same aspect.

With Fire!, Mats Gustafsson has an outlet for themes that may not work with his other groups. And with his bandmates experience in other more rock-centric outfits makes for challenging and creative sessions. Fire! isn't for everyone but I think you need to really sit and hear it all the way through before you get the full breath of ideas. Great stuff.

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