Various Artists: F-IRE Works: Volume 2

Chris May By

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The inventions and glories of London's F-IRE collective have been well documented here this year, and several tracks on this double-disc set—pieces like Polar Bear's "Fluffy (I Want You)," Acoustic Ladyland's "Remember," and Julia Biel's "Where Is She Now?"—revisit the highlights. The album also serves up a heap of new material, most of it from CDs to be released later this year or during '06.

So what future treats are coming our way? Plenty, if these advance tasters are anything to go by. Among them are two very different projects from Ingrid Laubrock, which the saxophonist flagged up in her recent AAJ interview. "Sonic Snapshot" is from her soprano/piano duo collaboration with Liam Noble, featuring (mostly) "standards with a twist"—and anyone who caught the duo's Tristano/Monk/Mingus set at the Vortex a week or so ago will vouch for the twists—due for release in the New Year.

"Say Anything," which closes the second disc—for the probable reason that it would be impossible to find anything else more out and more thrilling to follow it—is from Laubrock's project with her Polar Bear colleague, electronica artist Leafcutter John. It's truly extraordinary, mind-bending music, with Laubrock all over every tonal and textural inch of the tenor, from the opening foghorn-like bass register sounds up through harmonics hyperspace; Leafcutter John tools realtime-software, morphing electronically-mutated kalimba, melodica, bouzouki, bowls, and gongs alongside her. It's like listening to the creation of a new sonic language in which the two musicians are already achieving dialogue and having fun. Astonishing and liberating. An album should be released sometime next year.

We're also promised, via "Angels," a new set from guitarist Jonny Phillips' beautiful inside/outside Brazilia band Oriole, featuring the bliss-out lovely clarinet of Idris Rahman and cello of Ben Davis. "Forceful Beast" introduces Polar Bear drummer and mainman Seb Rochford's collaboration with Basquiat Strings, faintly reminiscent of the Kronos Quartet but more beat-driven and further off-planet. "Meta Meta" is F-IRE artistic director and saxophonist/percussionist Barak Schmool's deep bass, deep trance, modernised Afro-Cuban orisha repertoire project. Seriously heavy stuff... do try it at home.

As well as Ingrid Laubrock/Leafcutter John's "Say Anything," the second disc introduces other memorable electronic/acoustic initiatives. There are particularly strong tracks from guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff's Points Of Perception lineup ("Idiom"), featuring Tom Arthurs on trumpet and Wampa on electric beats; flautist Finn Peters' tripped out Dr Seuss ("The Swede"); and Seb Rochford's Fulborn Teversham project with a fellow Polar Bear/Acoustic Ladyland conspirator, saxophonist Pete Wareham ("Taka"), offering a controlled riot of new sounds and new textures (check those electronically scrunched-up gong sounds.)

If '05 has been a wonderful year for the F-IRE collective, and we the audience, on the evidence of this sampler, '06 sounds like it's going to be every bit as good, if not even better. Bring it on!

Track Listing: CD 1: Acoustic Ladyland: Remember; Justin Quinn's Bakehouse: Don't Fret; Nick Ramm's Clown Revisited: Bargain Bucket; Polar Bear: Fluffy; Julia Biel: Where Is She Now?; Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet: Equilibre; Ingrid Laubrock & Liam Noble: Sonic Snapshot; Jonny Phillips' Oriole: Angels; Squash Recipe with Tom Arthurs: Cerebral Blip; Basquiat Strings with Sebastian Rochford: Forceful Beast; Meta Meta: Odudua. CD 2: Robert Mitchell's Panacea: The Brink; Spin Marvel: Black Wing; Jonathan Bratoeff: Idiom; Ezzthetic: Pacino; Dr Seus: The Swede; Tom Arthurs & Ollie Bown Electric Duo: Vero; Julia Biel: Treetops; Sebastian Rochford's Fulborn Teversham: Taka; Barak Schmool's Componium: Said Afrika; Ingrid Laubrock & Leafcutter John: Say Anything.

Title: F-IRE Works: Volume 2 | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: F-IRE Records


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