Fire! Orchestra surpass genre defining barriers, overwhelming the listener with a unique sound grounded in the roots of free-jazz tribalism.
RUNE GRAMMOFON, 2013
9.0 / 10
2013 has been a good year for Mats Gustafsson so far. After releasing the less than impressive collaboration Stones with Colin Stetson in 2012, Gustafsson seems to have found some new source of inspiration. In February Gustafsson released the impressive Cuts collaboration with Merzbow and Balázs Pándi. Recently I also learned he was a member of the experimental big band Fire! Orchestra and can be heard on their January Debut Exit!.
Exit! is a stunning debut from the thirty-member orchestral group/brass band. While Gustafsson was the only member I knew offhand, many of the members have quite extensive catalogs which I may explore in the future. Though the Fire! Orchestra claims itself to be an orchestra, its instruments used are more brass and keys focused, with multiple vocalists and a few members doing electronics.
Recorded live (amazingly), Exit! consists of two longer movements. “Exit! Part One” is grounded by a slower repetitious bass line. Over this, chanting female vocals are presented in a manner at times comparable to Grace Slicks’ vocal work for Jefferson Airplane. Brooding brass bellows out during these, while multiple members are given chances to presenet free-jazz solos. Gustafsson’s saxophone can be heard playing in an Albert Ayler fashion at times, while at other times an organ akin to the sound of Sun Ra also comes into play.
“Exit! Part Two” focuses more on up-tempo percussion work and electronic cackles, waiting until the five minute mark for any brass to come in. By this point the song is well in stride and Gustafsson’s saxophone turns the track into a behemoth of a creature which plays well with mixing dissonance and upbeat sounds. Soon the sound devolves into a minimalist work with Bjork-like vocals preparing the listener for a final, free-form, finish.
Exit!’s sound is a triumph. Fire! Orchestra surpass genre defining barriers, overwhelming the listener with a unique sound grounded in the roots of free-jazz tribalism. This ambitious piece is one which almost passed me by and you would do yourself a favor to make sure this album does not go unheard.
Purchase: Fire! Orchestra – Exit!