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Fire - She Sleeps, She Sleeps [Rune Grammofon - 2016]

Fire! is an improvisatory jazz rock trio which includes Mats Gustafsson, string bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin.  "She Sleeps, She Sleeps" is their 5th album as a group, and one of countless albums conceived by its members.

The music on the album has a constant, hypnotic rhythm, but a relaxed pace, a glacial tempo.  it utilizes jazz timbres in a context more spiritually similar to ambient krautrock.  Over a dirge march cadence from the rhythm section, the dry, reedy metallic roar of Gustafsson's saxophone is responsible for melodic and emotional development of the songs.

He is first a droning war horn, dragging each throaty pitch quavering out, striking a single note many times.  He will then rise into wailing blues cascades, painful phrases of raw and bleating, rasping character.    The  resonant harmonics in his tones are so accentuated as to resemble distortion, but clearly raw and acoustic.  Numerous times, it sounds like he is playing multiple notes at once, doing some saxophone equivalent to throat singing.  I have heard him on his own and in various bands, and by this point I can confidently say he is my favorite current saxophonist.  He strikes a perfect balance between soulful melodic expression and bold, ripping growl.

The feeling of the album is desert-like, cinematic, the sound of each instrument inflected with heat shimmer, from Gustafsson's deep vibrato to the sun-bleached guitar chords which open the album, a guest contribution from Oren Ambarchi (a talented composer and musician in his own right).  Additional instruments are used to subtle and clever effect elsewhere in many places, as well, the lap steel guitar producing marvelous processed liquid tones.  The drum production, and that of the double bass, are clear yet rough-hewn.

I would guess these musicians are fans of bands such as Earth, conjuring a similar vintage Old West aesthetic, and pairing it with uncommonly slow tempos.  The gradually unfolding, expansive sound creates the sensation of travelling with a caravan as it inches across massive open distances.

This is one of most immediately gripping, immersive and likeable albums of Gustafsson's I've yet heard.  The other two musicians in the trio provide a perfect momentum for his soliloquys.  The drummer, Andreas Werliin, particularly distinguishes himself with clever fills, ghost notes and accents, a fluent sense of the groove.  I could confidently recommend this to any fan of live jazz or psychedelic rock jam bands, it straddles the line between the two so perfectly.

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

Josh Landry
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