Let me say something from the outset: Set Fire
To Flames are out there. Lauded as a side-project of the legendary
Godspeed You Black Emperor
(and listening to this as a fan of the latter), I expected something
along the same lines.
Not so much a band and more a collective of musical sculptors,
the end result of Set Fire to Flames' five days of what the
press release called "nosleepintoxicationconfinement" is a double
album which transfixes the listener with its sheer weirdness.
Their label, Alien8 Recordings, have happened upon one of those
rare bands which is almost impossible to define musically, unafraid
to experiment, and, most importantly, bursting with promise.
In these days of expendi-pop, formulaic "punk" bands, RíníB
(surely the biggest musical misnomer ever) clones, and a rap
scene which is rapidly becoming a grotesque parody of itself,
the music industry needs Set Fire To Flames to inject some genuine
creativity back into the world.
The guitar-led album opener, Deja, Comme Des Trous De Vent,
Comme Reproduit, led me briefly to believe that I was about
to sit through a variant on the GYBE
theme. How pleased I was, then, with the divergence in both
style and content of the following tracks: bowed strings reminiscent
of David Sylvianís work with Ryuichi Sakamoto as well as a curious
collection of electronic clicks and rustling sounds which belong
inside the sleep pod of some alien creature. When Sorrow
Shoots Her Darts, with its guitar/string/percussion arrangement
bringing it the closest to anything youíve heard before, is
achingly beautiful and puts me in mind of Starless And
Bible Black-era King Crimson.
A word of warning - donít listen to this album in the dark,
especially not the track In Prelight Isolate. This concoction
of almost-but-not-quite inharmonious, tension-building strings
culminates in a unifying bass chord that literally brought me
out in goose-flesh. Iíve had that sensation with music before,
but it has usually been the first rush of a song and not the
10+ minutes of this cut. If the Banshees of Irish legend were
to form a band, this is what it would sound like.
More sonic sculptures and landscapes skitter into view and
then fade in the mindís eye. Tehran In Seizure/Telegraphs
In Negative has the listener on some deserted Nevada highway
at midnight with the wind thrumming through overhead telegraph
wires. Your Guts Are Mine offers a brief glimpse at normality
via a cleverly constructed, stripped down guitar excursion.
Fukt Perkusiv/ Something About Bad Drugs, Schizophrenics
And Grain SilosÖ again lurches into Sylvian/Fripp land,
whilst never actually setting up camp there. Sleep Maps
is another highlight for me. With echoes of early 70s jazz improv/experimentation
in the same vein as Soft Machine, the piano, strings and guitar
all gently compete for the listenerís attention without being
Further along this albumís journey, there is a pit stop into
Miles Davisí Bitches Brew roadside diner with
Something About Eva Mattes In The Halo Of Exploding Street
Lamps and Buzz Of Barn Flies Like Faulty Electronics.
Then the band enters into what is, for me, the first of the
two stand-out tracks of the album. And The Birds Are About
To Bust Their Guts With Singing doesnít exactly endear itself
to the listener through its title, but the song is a masterful,
soulful, painfully melancholy mix of percussion, strings, andwind
instruments that knits together beautifully. For my money, it
should have been segued into the proceeding cut, Rites At
Spring Reverb, as the string theme is continued there.
The final track is the second stand-out cut for two distinct
reasons. First, it has one of the most compelling, haunting,
and instantly appealing titles Iíve ever seen: This Thing
Between Us Is A Rickety Bridge Of Impossible Crossing/Bonfires
For Nobody. How can one dislike a piece of music with a
title like that? Second, sonically, it is a requiem for the
modern world. When weíve used all of the fossil fuels and the
comet is about to hit, Iíll be playing this track with the last
small charge of electricity left available to me.
Thoroughly recommended, Telegraphs In Negative/Moths
Trapped In Static is one of those superb, timeless,
destined-to-become-a-classic albums which fits perfectly into
the hackneyed bracket of "come back to it time and again and
find something new each time." In truth, itís so dark, foreboding,
downright scary and outside of the mainstream that some may
find it unapproachable. Me? Iím off to see if I can get across
that rickety bridgeÖ