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- (Without Noticing) by Fire!
10/10 ReviewBot300 Staff review, 02 October 2013
Honk if you're excited! It’s the return of Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin, collectively known as FIRE!, for the first album in a while that they’ve done as a trio instead of with a big ol’ jazz orchestra or in collaboration with some improv giant like Jim O’Rourke or Oren Ambarchi. Not that these three aren’t giants in their own right, mind. Everything Gustafsson touches lately seems to turn into a great record, and ‘(without noticing)’ is no exception.
According to the sleeve, all the track titles are inspired by Bill Callahan’s book ‘Letters to Emma Bowlcut’, but don’t go expecting any miserablist singer-songwriter business here. That’s made clear on opener ‘standing on a rabbit (without noticing)’, a palate-cleanser of harsh processed sax skronk (a style repeated at the very end of the album for a bookend effect), a digitized mess of minimal honk followed by the frenzied ‘would i whip (without noticing)’, with bass and drums beating out a hard and heavy repeated pattern while Mats splatters his rich brassy shapes expertly over it before they take things down a notch on ‘your silhouette on each (without noticing)’ with languorous beats and tastefully booming bass taking us into a smoky late night lounge jazz mood.
Mats Gustafsson’s powerful honking horn is the star of the show throughout the album really, with the other two acting anchoring his out-there saxual explorations by locking into an hypnotic puttering groove and repeating it ad nauseam while Mats stretches his sax legs from smooth breathy melodies to his trademark all out honk assaults. In ‘tonight. more. much more. (without noticing)’ the bass is temporarily replaced by a piano to good effect in a sumptuous bit of minimal call and response, later joined by transistor static and organ drones to good effect. This whole album is superb, it really is. A marvellously tasteful and restrained example of Gustafsson’s more accessible side. If you enjoyed ‘The Cherry Thing’ and the recent Fire! Orchestra LP as much as I did, you’ll love this too.
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