By David DacksDon’t call Feuermusik a novelty band. Their new album, No Contest, proves that the sax and plastic bucket assault of 2006’s Goodbye Lucille was no serendipitous one-off. Reed player Jeremy Strachan and buckateer Gus Weinkauf have progressed even further with their lush saxscapes and syncopated clatter.
Widely respected for their work in punk and math-rock combos, they started working as Feuermusik four years ago. Goodbye Lucille documented their rapport as a high energy, spontaneous duo augmented by dense clarinet and saxophone arrangements.No Contest fleshes out their sound.
"We knew what we were going to be doing this time around,” Strachan admits. "I had a bunch of charts made up before we started the recording, but there were also pieces that we just made up from scratch. We knew there was going to be a ridiculous amount of overdubbing.” The thick slabs of horns are sorted out by sensitive mixing, which make the disc a powerful and sumptuous listen. "It was more about the coloration of the instruments than the chords.” Strachan explains. "The harmonic aspects are a little bit secondary to it.”
With pre-existing charts, Weinkauf and Strachan can build up the band to 11 members or keep things simple with two. Says Weinkauf: "As a duo you get more of that interactivity with another person, but with an ensemble there are more of the textures of how we recorded the songs in the studio.” Strachan echoes his thoughts: "The push and pull thing is interesting; how comfortable and uncomfortable it can be playing as a duo and also as a large ensemble.”
This modular approach creates new versions of their material every time out; there’s no question as to Feuermusik’s staying power. Says Strachan "We’re probably doing this for a very long time, but it’s not going to be a record a year. I always think of people like [free jazz icons] Evan Parker and Derek Bailey, those guys have hundreds of records.”