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- Exit! by Fire! Orchestra
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Mats Gustafsson has been a heavy hitter in the international skronk market for years now, with his wild and expressive free-honking style admired by musos the world over, but in the past couple of years he’s dropped a slew of particularly enjoyable collaborations - his trio The Thing recorded an irresistible album with Neneh Cherry, while his FIRE! collective (based around the trio of Gustafsson, Tape’s Johan Berthling and Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ Andreas Werliin) have brought out excellent collaborative LPs with Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi and this week sees the release not only of this epic right here but also his long-awaited dual sax adventure with horn-droner Colin Stetson...and that’s before I even start on his solo releases and collaborations with non-celebrities! He’s a busy man, our Mats.
But I digress, the point behind this latest and most ambitious FIRE! record to date is that they’ve assembled a massive 31-piece orchestra from the cream of the fertile Scandi-jazz scene to create an adventurous free jazz big band, but before you start worrying that this is just going to be an unmanageably explosive screech melee, don’t fear, these guys are pros and this album is actually a lot more tasteful than I thought it’d be. Of course there’s plenty of honking at certain points during proceedings, but the bulk of the musicians spend most of their time tied down to muscular orchestro-kraut grooves with ace Can-esque rhythms and sweepingly dramatic melodic motifs underpinning everything.
Halfway through the second side it does go a little bit Yoko Ono with a collage of free-puttering and some slightly comical vocal acrobatics which builds to a satisfying anarchic full chaos section at the end, but the first three-quarters of album is actually much more groovy and accessible than you’d expect from a Gustafsson-assembled 31-piece. In places it really makes me think of Sun Ra playing some kind of spy movie/Bond theme, especially with the slightly Bassey-ish vocals chanting lyrics written by The Ex’s Arnold de Boer alongside the churning grooves and stabbing brass. Think their recent FIRE! with Oren Ambarchi LP crossed with the ambitious jazz-prog orchestra on Motorpsycho’s last album and you’re somewhere close. This really has to be heard to be believed, marvellous stuff.
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