Fire!
The Hands


4.1
excellent

Review

by house cat STAFF
February 13th, 2018 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: the one with the calloused fingers and a good heart

Another one to thank The Quietus for, which makes two this week (the other being the inimitable Xylouris White) -- Fire! enter the fray with something like a gravitational pull, a skulking presence that soaks up surrounding sounds and uses those sounds to propel itself forward. The Hands is 2018’s first tribute to the snowball effect. It’s an indomitable wall of skronking and squawking and screeching that is stubborn because there’s no space for external stressors in Fire!’s house when the music is filling it all up in the first place.

To the winds of change: you are no match for Mats Gustafsson’s saxophone. Whether it’s murmuring incantations on I Guard Her to Rest. Declaring Silence. (the record’s understated closer) or wailing over drone rock structures that could reduce Bardo Pond to a subset of envy, the instrument here captures my attention more than you can. Not to consider it in a vacuum, or to reduce it to something so obnoxious -- it allows for brief passes at circumstances outside those that it manifests for itself. Up. And Down finds the tenor uncertain for a moment, at its most free-jazz because its faith in volume and conviction falters. Blink and you’ll miss it, before it’s once more able to hold a note without its voice breaking in a million directions.

To the subsequent unknown: your unsteadines; no, your unpredictability is countered, without mercy or apprehension, by Johan Berthling’s bass. Hands symbolise, along with interaction (though that’s neither here nor there in the context of this album), the essence of control. Fire! then, have graced their audience with a statement about maintaining control over things where possible, but also acknowledging and relinquishing sovereignty whenever it’s impossible. Berthling understands this, and so his bass, I think, devotes itself to creating that “gravitational pull” I mentioned previous. Within the linear confines of an improvisational, jazz-oriented power trio, there’s nary a moment where it can’t be described as “a dirge”. It’s a kind of molasses that’s just as good at hiding its seething energy (Touches Me With the Tips of Wonder) as it is at completely overpowering any of Gustafsson’s attempts to derail the conversation. In that regard, it’s like we’re listening in on a conflict between two contradictory viewpoints, or, if you’d rather: a team-building exercise where the two are learning to coexist. It's in keeping with the nature of improvisation, I suppose, but it’s not often one hears it handled as well as it is here.

To the world outside the next thirty-six minutes: I'm sorry, you just don't exist while The Hands are at work. There’s little you can do to break the immersion, and even less you can do to break Andreas Werliin’s stride. The drums sit behind the sax and the bass, watching from metres away as the two intertwine and then come away covered in welts and scratches. The playing is often slow (see: patient and composed), punctuated by clever use of the crash symbol, which -- in some instances -- just emboldens the crashing of the songs themselves. If the percussion was as capricious as the sax, or as devilish as the bass, this fire would burn out quickly; Werliin keeps the band contained to maximise their impact. That which is diffuse becomes limp-wristed, ineffective.

Writing for The Quietus, Evan Andrews perspicaciously pointed out the “fragments of voices” littered throughout the record, postulating that, perhaps, these distant whispers were trying to warn us “…of some imminent danger”. It’s an interesting point, spoken with greater wisdom and eloquence than I could ever muster. But respectfully, Mr Andrews, I’d like to offer the inverse: these voices are the danger, and this incorrigible, quivering, beautiful wall of sound is the force field that protects us, by virtue of its mass and its ability to adapt, to reshape itself against the evil knocking at our front door. There are points where something malicious seem poised and capable of breaking in, but upon what feels like the twentieth listen today, I can safely report: it seems, reader, like we’re in capable Hands.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
verdant
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2018


2244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

[posts blindly]

Papa Universe
February 13th 2018


16586 Comments


cool, new Fire!

Digging: VRCVS - VRCVS

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
February 13th 2018


2476 Comments


Incredible review, well done. Wasn't aware this had come out, will report back.

Digging: Jazz Cartier - Fleurever

Dedes
February 13th 2018


5810 Comments


Fantastic review Jack! Not sure if this sounds like something I would generally listen to but i'll definitely remember to check it (he says, as he jots the name down on the list of albums he never gets to).

emester
February 13th 2018


8249 Comments


last ones these guys did was the tits

will spin

Digging: Manilla Road - Crystal Logic

danielcardoso
February 13th 2018


11730 Comments


Only heard this once, sounded good enough but i haven't felt the need to ever get back to it since.

Chortles
February 13th 2018


21239 Comments


wowa, very excited to hear this

Digging: Inigo Kennedy - Strata

Dewinged
February 13th 2018


10823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fire! might be my favourite modern jazz ensemble right now. You should check Fire! Orchestra's "Ritual" if you haven't Jack, amazing record!



Goes without saying but outstanding review brother.



Edit: Also " J'm sorry," typo?

Digging: Tomberlin - At Weddings

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2018


17641 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

very surprised to see a Fire! fan in verdant

verdant
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2018


2244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

thx (dewi for picking up the typo, blush and dedes for the kind words, and fripp for the surprise???)

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2018


17641 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

s u r p r i s e

Tyler.
February 13th 2018


15049 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

never heard of these guys. are they related to fire! orchestra in any way

Dewinged
February 13th 2018


10823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, the 3 core members minus the orchestra, so bass, drum and sax.

Tyler.
February 13th 2018


15049 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ok will check

Taxt
February 13th 2018


1152 Comments


She Sleeps was excellent, can't wait to spin this one

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
February 14th 2018


23345 Comments


this reads like a response to another review, would love to see where u drew inspiration from. nearly done tho jack, you’re slowly starting to tackle this longer, engaging style.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
February 14th 2018


2244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

well the conclusion is very much a response to this: http://thequietus.com/articles/24030-fire-the-hands-mats-gustafsson-album-review (good read, do recommend) but otherwise my inspiration is drawn from melancholy and The Onion articles



gratitude, con

Mad.
February 14th 2018


4706 Comments


fuccccc love this band

owen
February 16th 2018


5143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

uh oh

Digging: Tim Buckley - Starsailor

deathschool
February 18th 2018


22562 Comments


Sweet. I really dig these guys.

Digging: Travis Scott - Astroworld



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