Published May 20, 2018Fitness rock. Technirock. Steroid minimalism. I'm hoping to coin a new genre name that best describes the type of music a certain segment of the free jazz / improv community are adding to their resumes lately. Scandinavian outfit FIRE! have been a hydra-headed project for Mats Gustafsson, encompassing collaborations with like-minded polymaths like Jim O'Rourke and Oren Ambarchi, larger ensembles dubbed the FIRE! Orchestra, and, allegedly soon, an actual orchestra tackling classical works by Penderecki.
FIRE!, tonight at FIMAV a trio, are the bare blood, bone, wood, wire and brass at the burning heart of the affair. Attacking tracks from their recent Rune Grammafon release, The Hands, Gustafsson, along with bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Wierling, dig in like gym rats doing hard reps, building muscle and sweating out toxins.
Berthling's intense but unwavering bass lines lock down a solid perimeter for Wierling's hard-hitting polyrhythms. For his part Gustafsson either takes or breaks open space for his alto and baritone saxophone lines that you can almost smell searing in the flavours.
For all the intensity and obvious musical mastery, there is an underlying feeling of inertia. Sharing a somehow pleasing vertigo from the impression we are traveling fast towards a destination, then realizing we were maybe already there to begin with. Music played hard and exceedingly well, but within a zone that feels a little far from the red line the players are capable of pushing.