Fire! Orchestra – Exit! (Rune Grammafon)

‘Exit!’ by Fire! Orchestra is an astonishing record.  Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, and Andreas Werlin have expanded their trio to encompass four drummers, four bassists, electronics, assorted massed reeds and brass, and some awesome vocalists.  They have together created something that will pin you to the wall.

Side 1 is driven by a profusion of drums clattering in thick unison.  Warm blares of brass threaten and recede.  Vocalists wail.  The massed horns break into small clusters of fierce confusion; their squiggles fight and tear against the increasingly fruitless but fearless efforts of the rhythm section.  Electric guitars begin to tear and rip at whatever unifying fabric remains.  The rhythm rolls on implacably, the one steady element in a screaming sound-world of flux.  A soft vocal solo midway is effective in gaining a breather amongst the noise, creating a bubble of utter calm before the bass and percussion begin a loping stalk, dragging the rest of the band behind them; a band that returns in sections like people gradually arriving at a party.    A brave sax solo picks out small melodic fragments but is torn apart by atonal piano bashing and the encroaching return of the rest of the group.  The loping bowl of its lazy momentum is enlivened by the furious raw power unleashed by the horns, guitars, singers, and electronics.

The wordless solo vocals of the second side’s opening are beautiful.  The addition of clicking electronics and high piano pings make way for a killer motorik beat that acts as an out-of-control vehicle for the rest of the ensemble.  The huge horn section gathers its breath and summons an almighty skronk.  The entire honking, screaming edifice collapses in an exhausted heap halfway through, only for the vocalist to return, singing sweetly and gently from atop the exhausted ruins of the band.  The respite is brief before the players begin to twitch, stir and shake themselves into life.  Clangs re-emerge, warbled muted trumpets, wheezing electronics, tuneful licks of guitar; all begin to coalesce into a steadily heating morass before a crescendo freak-out so loud and intense it’ll leave you with the ability to see through time.

‘Exit!’ is the sort of record that makes you glad to be alive.  Explosive and ecstatic, it nevertheless possesses periods of calm and space amidst the chaos.  It reminded me of William Parker’s ‘Double Sunrise Over Neptune’.  This is one of the very best free jazz / noise / improv / whatever releases of the year.  Ambitious, impassioned, furiously delivered music to make you squint your mind and flinchingly revel in the sheer excess and majesty of it all.

‘Exit!’ is an amazing achievement, bursting with invention, soul, and scorching fire.

More info from the label here.

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