Set Fire to Flames Sings Reign Rebuilder Review

BBC Review

...there's not a lot of sweetness and light here - the tone is darker than Hotblack...

Dan Hill 2002

Another successful iteration of the Montreal sound here, with this striking new release from Set Fire To Flames. You may not know the name yet, but as with most projects emanating from Montreal's experimental music community, it comprises erstwhile members of numerous (fabulously named) bands, such as godspeed you black emperor!; Exhaust; Fly Pan Am; A Silver Mt Zion; Molasses; Hanged Up; HRSTA; squintf***er press; undo etc.

So it's the usual Montreal suspects. And, as usual, they employ strength in numbers - 13 of 'em here, on cello, violin, tapes, numerous guitarists and percussionists etc. And, as usual, it's also bloody beautiful.

You tend to know what's coming with this dirty gothic blend of minimalism and drone-rock, but it's still largely irresistible. The langorous, minimalist melodies are as wonderfully dirge-like as ever; the vocal samples - "voices from the edge" - are impressively forboding; and the occasional crescendo is inevitable but amazingly, always affecting.

The sound is in epic widescreen, recorded over a five day stretch on cheap da-88's rolling freely, capturing the shifting ensemble as they drift compositions in and out of focus, in and out of improvisation and environmental noise. The band tell of the ancient ramshackle house they inhabited during recording - conjuring something akin to the final scene of Blair Witch - which creaks and groans throughout the piece. Elsewhere, the delightful putt-putt sounds of fishing traffic off Vancouver Island sidle up alongside the Pärt and Ligeti and early Floyd influences. It's a wonderfully spacey record.

Sure, it sounds like all the other Montreal bands. And there's not a lot of sweetness and light here - the tone is darker than Hotblack Desiato's dash. But despite the occasional hackneyed potboiler, this stuff works. It really works. Set Fire To Flames are one of the more impressive entrants to the now burgeoning scene; one of the more successful subsets of this intense, creative collective, and this is undeniably affecting music.

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