Fire! – She Sleeps, She Sleeps (2016)

Fire! - She Sleeps, She Sleeps (2016)
Artist: Fire!
Album: She Sleeps, She Sleeps
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Label: Rune Grammofon
Year Of Release: 2016
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

She Owned His Voice 7:34
She Sleeps, She Sleeps 13:59
She Bid A Meaningless Farewell 4:04
She Penetrates The Distant Silence, Slowly 18:30


After the colossal debauchery of the Fire! Orchestra moloch Gustafsson, Berthling and Werliin broke it down to the bare necessities again – sax, bass, drums (and additional guitar or cello here and there). She Sleeps, She Sleeps propels the band even further back than where they started from with You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago. It displays the roots of the musical influences like blues rock á la Blue Cheer and uses it to reconstruct and highlight a different side of the band’s identity.

She Sleeps, She Sleeps begins like a metal album. Four massive chords that sound like chimes open “She Owns His Voice“, each of them lasts 14 seconds and they make up the underlying, basic pattern of the track. Then you get what has made Fire! such a great concept: In front of a solid background (here: the looped chords from the beginning), Gustafsson and Werliin drive the piece apart. The novel effect on this track is that Berthling, who is exclusively on double bass this time, follows them. On the previous albums he was the one who had held the pieces together with a steady pulse. Now the compositions put Gustafsson’s tone, his extraordinary phrasing, his immense lung-power and volume in the foreground. His playing is so mournful, angst-ridden and desperate, one might be afraid that he has just met the devil in persona.

For the title track Oren Ambarchi augments the trio. He has worked with them before on their (possibly best) album In the Mouth a Hand on which he had a very prominent role. Here he is very much in the background and polishes the piece by delivering icy textures that could serve as a soundtrack for a film noir.

For the last two tracks of the album, the trio is joined by cellist Leo Svensson Sander. But he doesn’t play the wide melancholic lines that are so stereotypical for a lot of cello music. His approach is rather percussive, in “She Bid a Meaningless Farewell“ he dances almost joyfully around the dark saxophone lines. Finally, “She Penetrates The Distant Silence, Slowly“ drags us even further down the gloomy road. On this last track Berthling plays a super-slow Black Sabbath riff on his double bass and introduces us to an utterly deserted and lonesome void, in which Werliin’s bells buzz around like lost souls. Gustafsson cries out a bruised blues picking up Berthling’s riff from the beginning, supported by short, high cello notes. Gustafsson and Sander even expand this riff and boost it with an extra portion of sadness and volume.

Additionally, there is a meaning to this album, which my colleague Colin calls “a long lament to lost love“. She Sleeps, She Sleeps is about the different moments of a relationship, about two people being one (“She Owns His Voice“), about the time when you are willing to make compromises although there might be enormous differences (“She Sleeps, She Sleeps“). Eventually, separation is unavoidable, brief and cruel (“She Bid a Meaningless Farewell“ – the shortest track) before – after a long silence – the former partners try to build up a new form of communication (“She Penetrates the Silence, Slowly“), with all the scars the relationship has left.

She Sleeps, She Sleeps has helped me to go through very difficult time in my life, it’s the album that I have been listening to over and over again since it was released. It has been a consolation, a catharsis and a support to me. On a very personal level, it is my album of the year. Thank you for this music, Mats, Johan, Andreas. It was there at the right time.
by Martin Schray

She Sleeps, She Sleeps is the fifth album release from Fire! (yes, that exclamation mark is an integral part of the name), the Swedish supergroup trio of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin. It sees the three return to duty as a trio following the distraction of recording and touring with the Fire! Orchestra, with its membership of about thirty. Away from the orchestra, past Fire! albums have seen the trio collaborating with other musicians such as guitarists Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi. Although their last trio album, (Without Noticing) (Rune Gramoffon, 2013), included no such additions, this time around three of the album’s four tracks do include guests, Ambarchi on one track and cellist Leo Svensson Sander on two others.

The seven-and-a-half minute opening track, “She Owned His Voice,” features the trio alone, and it is a potent reminder of what a fine group this is; the three members are immediately locked into each other, bass and drums providing a tight, driving groove over which Gustafsson gives a textbook example of what he does so well, firing off bursts of focussed, sustained baritone that display his awesome stamina, lung-power and phrasing. Next up, on the longer title track the rhythm section is just as reliable, allowing room for Gustafsson and Ambarchi to trade phrases that sound decidedly angst-ridden and atmospheric.

For the second half of the album’s forty-four minutes, the trio are joined by cellist Sander who slots in with assurance, although the four-minute “She Bid a Meaningless Farewell” is dominated by a workmanlike drum solo before bass and cello join in to add to the pulse. The album is brought to a storming climax by “She Penetrates the Distant Silence. Slowly” which opens with bass alone and then gradually adds layers of sound and builds momentum before ending with a full-on assault by all four players—altogether an object lesson in controlled power and dynamics.

Aficionados of Fire! will find plenty here to remind them of the group’s many strengths; newcomers can confidently join in here, knowing they have a treat in store.

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