Fire! Orchestra - Enter (3 stars)

Mats Gustafsson attempts to follow-up the success of 2013's Exit!, with mixed results

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Fire! Orchestra - Enter

(Rune Gramoffon)

Fire! Orchestra’s Exit!, in which saxophone hero Mats Gustafsson expanded his free jazz / psych rock trio into a 30-piece behemoth, was a highlight of 2013. While still driven by Johan Berthling’s hypnotic bass, this new Fire! music blazed with the spontaneous interplay between a crack team of Swedish jazzers and the wildly inventive vocalists Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg.

Enter is a more structured affair, organising composed and improvised passages into a prog rock-like suite. The mood is suitably 70s, heavy with the fug of patchouli and hash, the mellow vibes tinged with dread. ‘Part One’ is stripped right back, as a slow-burning Fender Rhodes riff ushers in Wallentin’s bluesy torch singing. Horns gradually enter to support the riff, before it all falls into a black hole of King Crimson-like mellotron.

‘Part Two’ hits the ground running, with a insistent groove knowingly filched from The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. Pretty nifty, but for Simon Ohlsson’s pompous vocals, which are a step too far into prog naffness. Electronicist Joachim Nordwall takes over for a refreshingly contemporary excursion into noise, but save for a few gaseous puffs of trombone beneath his frayed arcs of tone, there’s no real exchange with the Orchestra – a missed opportunity.

A mini-concerto for horns and solo sax is genuinely affecting, evoking a wintry Swedish seascape as Gustafsson blows freely over Mats Äleklint’s stately arrangement. There’s more spontaneous play between sections of the Orchestra in ‘Part Three’, with Jernberg gnashing and growling at the wailing horns over a see-sawing riff. ‘Part Four’ reprises Wallentin’s main theme, with the full Orchestra rising behind the vocalists as they strive for a cosmic weightiness. The ambition of Enter is laudable, but in its bid to accommodate so many voices, it lacks the character and energy of its predecessor.

Fire! Orchestra - Enter

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