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Fire Under Water - Self Titled [Twilight Luggage - 2011]

Norweigen artist Fire Under Water's 1st release, a self titled CDr, was released on Twilight Luggage in 2011.  There are 2 untitled tracks around 15 minutes long, comprised entirely of low fidelity, crackling ambient noise of an unintrusive nature.  There is almost no artwork, only an almost primal symbolic picture of wavy lines (water) with 3 small flame emblems superimposed over it.

A lot of DIY recordings use somewhat low fidelity sound sources, but this album takes the idea to extremes.  A good 50% of the sounds in the mix sound like recordings made on a 10 year old cell phone.  Much in same way white noise can be misconstrued as the sound of a waterfall, thick globs of surface noise artifacts create "ghost sounds": sonic silhouettes of what could have been water, frogs croaking, howling wind, machinery.  This is an interesting effect, but I can't really give much credit to the group, as this happens with any recording in extreme low fidelity, and the way the recordings are collaged and organized is far from inspiring.

Layers of unpleasant digital surface noise are simply piled in the center of the soundspace, leaving the piece opaque and seemingly devoid of theme or feeling.  The way it's mixed doesn't encourage me to turn it up and hear the layers beneath: resonance peaks mean increasing the volume just grates on the ears rather than letting the piece open into some kind of vast panorama.

It's a shame, as there are in fact sustained synth pads buried beneath the shifting trebley resonances, and though the sounds are basic they convey a sort of nostalgia, and in the unevent of the piece, speak to humanity's ability to endure.  It's nothing I haven't heard before in other drone releases, but at least it shows some thought was put into the album.

The second track  is decidedly better than the first.  The noise textures develop into a fuller sounding whitewash like the poorly recorded sound of spraying out the inside of a bucket.  It's still heavy on the treble, but there's some body to it, and there are some nice feedback arcs to compliment it.  A distorted piano loop finds its way into the first few minutes, accenting the nostalgic feel.  Overall, though, I still come out of it saying "that's it?".

I have a hard time getting much out of this release.  It alternately comes off as either a confused and uninspired mash of unrelated recordings or a heavy handed attempt at using the imperfections of lo fi audio to induce nostalgia.  Not much territory is explored over the course of 33 minutes, and what's here is hardly worth dwelling on.  Fire Under Water would do well to prioritize their sound: highlight some elements over others to really sculpt the mix into some kind of space or narrative.  I've liked other records from Twilight Luggage in the past, but I can't recommend this one.  It does not entrance.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Josh Landry
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