Review Summary: ON FIRE does on an EP what a lot of bands can't seem to do on an LP and does it very well.
As is the case for many musicians, the conception of ON FIRE resulted directly from the subsiding and eventual demise of previous bands. In 2003, a group of Boston indie rockers under the name of The Burning Paris
found themselves in a slump after two releases and opted for the dreaded "hiatus". Of the members, there were a handful that decided to proceed in the direction of another band including Nate Shumaker (vocalist/guitarist), Josh Megyessy (guitarist), and Jenny Townsend (cello). At about the same time, another local Boston outfit named Placer
had divided, leaving their bassist/keyboardist Tom Korkidis and drummer Mike Ushinski behind as the rest of the band relocated.
In a nutshell, these combined occurrences would in time lead to the forming and, over time, the debut EP of ON FIRE: This Time It Is Forever
. As though the title in itself was an indication of the newly formed band's perseverance, one cannot help but ponder over what could be in store within the five tracks offered. However, despite playing in the continuing months with bands like The Album Leaf
, The Dresden Dolls
, Mute Math
, and Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
the immediate future would see no follow up full length. Complications arose with somewhat of a revolving door of musicians and an inevitable pause that would last a matter of years. However, the waning months of 2007 saw to the reemergence of the band which now directs focus back to the debut EP as a sort of guidance for what to expect.
According to Nate Shumaker, ON FIRE is "the modern post-rock equivalent of an impressionist chamber group playing for the sake of immediacy in a time of ultimate crisis
". While this may sound horribly pretentious with no context, this EP does in fact do a fantastic job at setting an intimately curious display of potential. Much like the stage being set before you at a theater, delicate layers of sound are constantly introduced to heighten the senses and prepare the listener for whatever may come next. Be it swirling synth textures, piercingly soft vocals penetrating the curtains of guitars, or the gradual build of drums this EP seems more of a small journey than a collection of randomized demos. Though it is rather lengthy in comparison to some (clocking in at a over thirty minutes) I cannot help but admit that the overall sense of well-orchestrated musical expression is such that rivals many full length records.
More impressive is the means by which ON FIRE is capable of constructing immensely emotive swells in a fraction of the time many post rock bands take to do so. Just over two minutes into the EP within New Jersey Is For Lovers
a wall of sound is brought tentatively up and withdrawn again to the introduction of Shumaker's hushed vocals, slipping back to a whisper momentarily before flaring back up with newfound intensity. The track in turn subsides quietly to lead into Please Remember
which continues into a dreamy ballad of sorts that weaves flawlessly in and out of sighing, soundscapes of cello melodies, drifting guitar veils and into a surge of crashing cymbals.
Appropriately named is the third track Night Skies
, as it feels much like laying in the dark of night and watching the stars while wandering in through the sleepy trance that has been set. Though it serves as the shortest song on the EP, it still features Shumaker's nonabrasive and inviting vocal musings before they are soon accentuated by the sound of guitars soaring like shooting stars in the sky. Quite a contrast is Bovina (It Is Forever)
, which timidly enters on the lull of the previous track but in turn builds into a torrent of skyscrapping effects washing over top of increasingly frantic drum work and slowly building guitar riffs.
Somewhat of an oddity is the final track on the EP, as a climax of sorts is reached toward the final minutes of Bovina
. Almost serving as an afterthought or the following wake, Untitled
sounds more of a breed of post rock exposed to just a hint
of trip hop. Foreboding keyboard swells and subtle guitar effects constitute the majority of this track, a contrast to the nod-inducing drum work that continues on a groove. Even as its title may imply that it very well may simply have been a separate idea it creates an air that seems to suggest it could serve as a very nice segue into whatever were to come further.
What really solidifies this release is the amount of directions ON FIRE seem to be able to go without necessarily straying from their strengths, as well as a great promise as to what could be further developed in a full length. It what seems like very little time in these thirty-some minutes This Time It Is Forever
defines perfectly what the band is and what they are capable of creating. Never once do any tracks seem to stray or get caught in self-indulgent atmosphere, instead they tastefully explore each contour of the imagery presented before moving on to the next. With the material given on these five tracks alone, as well as the promise of a follow up LP in 2008, I can easily speculate that the full length debut from ON FIRE could easily turn up as one of the better hidden post rock gems of the coming year.
New Jersey Is For Lovers
Bovina (It Is Forever)