|Fire! Orchestra ◊ Exit! (2013)|
Fire! Orchestra — Exit!
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Album release: January 11, 2013
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
1. "Exit!" (part one) (19:30)
2. "Exit!" (part two) (24:54)
¶ Fire! is where Mats Gustafsson (The Thing), Johan Berthling (Tape) and drummer Andreas Werliin (Wildbirds & Peacedrums) go to stretch their instrumental skills and collaborate with prestigious guests like Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi.
¶ Fire! Orchestra takes the project to the next level: a sonic behemoth comprising 28 members from Swedish jazz, improv and avant rock that should be unmanageable, but turns out to possess the elegance and lucidity of the righteous free jazz big bands of the past. Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra. Carla Bley’s “Escalator Over the Hill”. Centipede. Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place”. Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath. Freddie Hubbard & Ilhan Mimaroglu’s “Sing Me A Song Of Songmy”. All these classic landmarks come to mind as you listen to their monumental “Exit!”.
¶ “Exit!” was recorded in front of an over enthusiastic audience in January 2012 at the headquarters of Fylkingen, the legendary Stockholm avant garde music centre.
But before you go thinking this is an impenetrable free jazz meltdown, listen again. “Exit!” follows in these mighty footprints, but it’s also an odyssey that takes its own route, with post-rock/krautrock diversions along the way. There is a way in to “Exit!”, and the way out is clearly signposted. Fire! is all about burning up tradition and blazing new paths and fresh approaches in improvised music – approaches informed equally by garage punk, electroacoustics and the noise of heavy industry.
By JOHN KELMAN
√ Sometimes it's best not to predict. If the idea of expanding Fire!'s core trio of saxophonist/electric pianist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werlin into Fire! Orchestra's massive, 28-piece behemoth was based on the trio's extant discography—You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago (Rune Grammofon, 2009), Unreleased (Rune Grammofon, 2011), and In the Mouth of a Hand Rune Grammofon, 2012)—then a relentless album of high energy and high volume density would be expected. Which makes Exit! a complete and utter surprise, and in the best possible way.
√ That's not to say there isn't plenty of cacophonous chaos amidst Exit!'s two-part, multi-episodic, continuous 44-minute suite; when there is, beyond its six reeds and five brass, a total of three keyboardists, four bassists and four drummers means plenty of potential for some seriously joyous noise, and given Fire!'s predisposition for unfettered and unrelenting improvisation, it's no surprise that, at times, the music builds to wave after wave of climactic peaks. And even when the dynamics drop, there's plenty of angularity clearly not meant for the faint-of-heart.
√ Still, Exit!'s biggest surprise—though, following Gustafsson's career in particular, perhaps this should not be a surprise—is that it is a more dynamic piece that, if not exactly beautiful, does break down into quieter passages of greater clarity that allow for Arnold de Boers' text to be delivered—from near-lyricism to ululating freak-outs—by three singers including Sofia Jernberg, whose 2012 Trondheim Jazz Festival performance with The New Song made her an inevitable participant here.
√ There's still plenty of freedom, and room for extremes like screaming, whammy bar-driven electric guitars and electronics from a number of sources including Gustafsson, whose occasional unmistakable solo—here, on tenor saxophone rather than the baritone more commonly associated with Fire! (leaving that to fellow Swede, Atomic saxophonist fredrik Ljungkvist)—is of the visceral, cathartic nature that's become a personal signature. But with its broader dynamic range and Gustafson's conducting, Exit! is somehow more eminently accessible than Fire!'s usual work, the inevitable consequence of past large ensembles like bassist Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and keyboardist Sun Ra's Arkesta. Still, neither of these precedents had Berthling and Weliin's joined-at-the-hip grooves, which drive most of the proceedings. Further bolstered with additional players including drummer Raymond Strid and ex-e.s.t. bassist Dan Berglund, they're even more potent as the group shuffles through a variety of meters ranging from the ¾ ostinato that drives the opening of "Exit! Part One" and the slower, greasier groove in its second half, to the fiery 5/4 rhythm that emerges from the freer opening of "Part Two."
√ Exit! ultimately ends with a cluttered free-for-all the builds from sparer, more defined components to an ending more in keeping with Fire!'s usual modus operandi, as more and more of the musicians enter the fray, leading to five minutes of truly joyful abandon. It's a fitting ending to this expanded version of Fire! that's unequivocally its greatest accomplishment to date. Broader instrumentation and a stronger sense of construction make Exit! both an exhilarating first experience and one to return to time and again, as its multiplicity of rewards unfold with each and every listen.
Personnel: Marian Wallentin: voice; Emil Svanängen: voice, guitar; Sofia Jernberg: voice; Niklas Barnö: trumpet; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Emil Stransberg: trumpet; Mats Äleklint: trombone; Mer Äke Holmlander: tuba; Anna Högberg: alto saxophone; Mats Gustafsson: ten saxophone, live electronics; Fredrik Ljungkvist: baritone saxophone, clarinet; Christer Bothe´n: bass clarinet, guimbri; Jonas Kullhammar: bass saxophone; Andreas Söderström: guitar; Sören Runolf: guitar; David Stackenäs: guitar; Sten Sandell: piano, electronics; Joachim Nordwall: electronics; Thomas Halonsten: organ; Johan Berthling: electric bass; Joel Grip: bass; Joe Williamson: bass; Dan Berglund: bass; Andreas Weliin: drums; Thomas Mera Gartz: drums; Joyan Holmegard: drums; Raymond Strid: drums.
√ The two lenghty tracks that make up "Exit!" traverse a broad sonic territory. Each features lyrics by Arnold De Boer of The Ex, sung by Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg; an extended metaphor about being inside a building and seeking an exit, or about fire. Behind their vocals, the group surge and roar but groove, too. While the first track combines poetic lyrics and overwhelming yet still somehow subtle ensemble play not unlike Little Huey or Burnt Sugar, the second track finds them working a relentless Krautrock riff reminiscent of pre-Damo Suzuki Can, until eventually the horns reupt in blare as the vocalists shriek and keen. Totally dissimilar to any prior Fire! work, "Exit!" is astonishing - as vital a large group, out-jazz statement as Don Cherry´s "Eternal Rhythm", The Jazz Composers Orchestra´s "Communications", or The Celestrial Communications Orchestra´s "Seasons". — The Wire (UK)
√ Here, the core Fire! trio expands to 31 members for a 40-minute avant-big-band blowout reminiscent of Carla Bley, Keith Tippett´s Centipede project or San Rivers´ Crystals. An ensemble this large could so easily produce pure chaos, but their boundless energy is harnessed and directed in astounding, dynamic ways. In the first half, vocalists Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg bring psychedelic sould, folk evocations and beat poetry over an obscene 3/4 bassline pierced by stabbing war horns and flaying guitars. The second and final track rides a hard-nosed kosmische groove, piling on endless ranks of electronics, guitars and horns, constantly redoubling the energy, pausing only for some abstracted jazz and an Abbey Lincoln/Patty Waters-style vocal freakout, before hitting an even higher ecstatic peak. Astounding. — Rock-a-Rolla (UK)
√ De kombinerer egenart med tradisjonsbevissthet og bygger ut den visjonen de startet med. Trioen Fire! teller Mats Gustafsson, Andreas Werliin og Johan Berhling og på sin fjerde utgivelse har de med seg 25 musikere i orkesteret. Den storbandtradisjonen de levendegjør peker tilbake mot Carla Bley, Chris McGregor og Keith Tippett, mens egenarten tilkjennegir seg musikkens overskridende natur. Fire! trives med lange linjer og insisterende bevegelser. Mariam Wallentin og Sofia Jernbergs ritualistiske sang understreker den messende kvaliteten. Jeg liker overraskelsesmomentene og dynamikken i uttrykket, blåsernes løft og gitarenes hissige farger. Fire! Orchestra har mye på hjertet, og de får sagt det, gjennom Sten Sandells pianoytringer og Tomas Hallonstens progressive orgellyd. At trioen Fire! er så sterkt tilstede med sitt, tydeliggjør de tre svenskenes bunnsolide ideer. — 4/5. — Aftenposten (NO)
√ Den frie musikken vinner stadig nye tilhengere. Fordi det er tøft, uavhengig og vakkert? Antagelig. Den svenske trioen Fire!, anført av macho-saksofonisten Mats Gustafsson, er for anledningen utvidet til å telle 31 medlemmer, alle hentet fra øvre lag av svensk jazz og improvisasjonsmusikk. Men det er ikke bare som å skru opp krana så det fosser ut - de to lange stykkene er dynamiske og målrettede. Flere frilynte vokalister, elektronikk og groover hentet fra eksperimentell rock og funk holder på interessen. Med litt velvilje sender prosjektet tankene til andre store konstellasjoner som Carla Bleys fabelaktige "Escalator Over The Hill" eller Art Ensemble Of Chicagos arbeid med nylig avdøde Fontella Bass. — Dagens Næringsliv (NO)
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|Fire! Orchestra ◊ Exit! (2013)|