Fire! with Jim O’Rourke Unreleased? Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Swedes and pal sear synapses with psychedelic scorched earth grooves.

Spencer Grady 2011

Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! have significantly raised their game since the release of their 2009 debut, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago. While that collection was a perfectly satisfactory demarcation of the trio’s sprawling, groove-laden template, it never quite caught, ahem, fire. Unreleased?, on the other hand, is a pyro-spewing, laser-radiating monster of a record.

Recorded with the help of guest collaborator Jim O’Rourke in the ex-Sonic Youth man’s new home of Tokyo, it comes tearing out of the traps like the Kraken racing out of his undersea lair prior to a ravaging of ancient Joppa. Offering a far more cohesive collection than its predecessor – the group apparently clearer as to the desired constitution of their extended combustibles – each individual entry forms a finessed study in nervy tension.

Sure, it might be tempting to put this all down to the presence of O’Rourke, but his contributions, such as the Spaghetti Western harmonica on the troublesomely titled By Whom and Why am I Previously Unreleased?, while exquisitely judged, seem limited to that of tonal colouring. No doubt about it, the lion’s share of the plaudits should go to the original trio. Their grinding meaty swagger, rising from smouldering embers, create a tumultuous psychedelic brew, like a slow-burning rogue hybrid of The Necks, Bohren & der Club of Gore and a slew of 70s kraut-rocking acid casualties.

Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werliin (percussion) now comprise an audaciously adept rhythm section, anchoring these expansive, incendiary workouts, while generating enough kinetic zip and flow to propel them through a series of loping, meditative lurches. They manage to strike the perfect balance between grace and malevolence. However, it’s left to Gustafsson himself to ignite the petrol-drenched touch paper, fingers of flame erupting from the scalding bell of his tenor sax, incinerating the stack with a torrent of never-ending napalm.

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