FIRE!-SHE SLEEPS, SHE SLEEPS.

FIRE!-SHE SLEEPS, SHE SLEEPS.

During the sixties and seventies, jazz musicians thought nothing of releasing two and sometimes three albums a year. Often albums were recorded in a few days. This included many a classic album, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Nowadays, recording an album can be a long, drawn out process.

That’s been the case since the advent of the home studio. No longer do artists have to hire a recording studio, and discipline themselves to record an album within a certain timeframe. Instead, it’s possible for artists to record an album at home. All they need is a laptop with a DAW and a handful of plug-ins installed plus a digital audio interface. Then they’re ready to record their Magnus Opus. However, often, things don’t go to plan.

When bands disappear into their home studio determined to record a career defining album, they’ve not a worry in the world. They’re happy not to be renting a studio by the hour. This means they can take their time honing, refining and tweaking even the tiniest detail. 

Before the band realises it, days become weeks, and weeks become months. For some bands, months turn into a year, and often two. That’s not uncommon in the age of a home recording studio. However, while some bands take two years to record an album, the three members of Fire! have recorded five albums in seven years, plus another three albums with Fire Orchestra. It seems that the Mats Gustafsson , Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin are the hardest working men in Swedish music. 

Their latest album as Fire! is She Sleeps, She Sleeps, which was reissued on Rune Grammofon on 19th February. She Sleeps, She Sleeps was recorded in Stockholm in March 2015. By the time She Sleeps, She Sleeps was mixed during the summer of 2015, the three members of Fire! were back making music. There was no way that the members of Fire! would spend two years recording an album. They’ve recorded several albums during a two year period before, and will continue to do so.

Ever since Fire! released their debut album You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago on Rune Grammofon, in 2009, Mats Gustafsson ,Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin have had to fit the project around their other musical commitments.

Reeds player and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is the elder statesmen of Fire! He was born in 1964, and has been involved in the Swedish music scene since 1988. Since then, Mats Gustafsson has worked as a musician, arranger, composer, conductor and producer. He’s played and performed on over 200 albums. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, Mats Gustafsson is a a member of jazz trio The Thing. However, over the past three decides Mats Gustafsson has collaborated with everyone from Jim O’Rourke to Sonic Youth and Lasse Marhaug. Then there’s the solo albums Mats Gustafsson has released. These solo albums and collaborations add another seventy albums to Mats Gustafsson’s C.V. However, he’s not the only member of Fire! with an impressive C.V.

Just like Mats, bassist Johan Berthling is a veteran of numerous bands. Previously, he’s been a member of Angles, Angles 9, Boots Brown, Nacka Forum, Ohayo, Pipeline, Sten Sandell Trio, Tape, The Godforgottens, The Tiny and Time Is A Mountain. Away from these bands, Johan has worked as a hired hand.

Johan has worked as an arranger, musician, producer and songwriter. Already, he has around 170 credits to his name. When Johan’s not working on other people’s albums, he runs a record label.

In 1999, John and Klas Augustsson founded the Häpna record label. It’s based in Stockholm, and has released nearly sixty releases. This includes albums by Tape, who released their eighth album Casino in 2014. Just like other members of Fire!, Johan has a voracious appetite for making music.

The same can be said of drummer and percussionist, Andreas Werliin. He was born in 1982, and is the youngest member of Fire! Although he’s only thirty-four, Andreas is almost veteran of Swedish music. Andreas has worked as an arranger, musician, singer, songwriter and producer. He’s happy to work as a hired hand, when not been working with the various bands he’s been a member of.

Among the groups that Andreas has played in, are Angles 9, Time Is a Mountain, Tonbruket and Wildbirds and Peacedrums. In both Angles 9 and Time Is a Mountain, Andreas is joined by Johan in the rhythm section. They’ve formed a formidable partnership, since Fire! released their debut album in 2009.

You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago.

You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago was Fire!’s debut album. It showcased what was a new and innovative approach to improvised music. Fire! stepped out of their comfort zone on You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, seamlessly combining free jazz, psychedelic rock and noise. This was the perfect showcase for the three members of Fire!’s considerable musical skills. Critics were won over by Fire!, and forecast a bright future from the Swedish trio.

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Unreleased?

Two years later, and Fire! returned with the first collaboration of their career. They had recorded four lengthy improvised pieces with Chicago born, but Tokyo based performer, composer and record producer. He was a veteran of countless collaborations since his career began in the late eighties. Now he was ready to hitch a ride with Fire!

When the album was ready for release in 2011, Fire! received star billing. Fire! With Jim O’Rourke Unreleased? was released on Rune Grammofon. This genre-melting album saw Fire! continue to push musical boundaries, taking the music in hitherto unexpected directions. The collaboration with Jim O’Rourke was regarded as an overwhelming success. So it was no surprise when another artist asked to collaborate with Fire! 

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In The Mouth-A Hand.

This time, it was Australian experimental electronic guitarist and percussionist, Oren Ambarchi. He was no stranger to collaborations, and previously, had worked a variety of artists, including Keith Rowe. Fire! agreed to the collaboration, and the result was the album In The Mouth-A Hand.

It featured another four lengthy, improvised tracks. This allowed Fire! and Oren Ambarchi to take the listener on a musical adventure, where musical genres and influences were combined. Three of the most prevalent influences were free jazz, noise and psychedelic rock. Just like previous albums, this was a crucial part of Fire!’s sound.

When In The Mouth-A Hand was released on Rune Grammofon, again, Fire! received top billing. They played a huge part in what was another important album collaboration. With Oren Ambarchi, Fire! had created another album of groundbreaking, innovative music. Despite this, Fire!’s next album wasn’t a collaboration. Instead, it featured just the three members of Fire! 

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(Without Noticing).

By the time, Fire! began work on (Without Noticing), they were regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative groups in the Nordic music scene. Fire! had released three albums in three years. Now they were four for four.

When (Without Noticing) was released on Rune Grammofon in 2013, it was hailed a career defining album. It was a fusion of free jazz and psychedelic rock via a more traditional rocky and jazz-tinged sound.  Fire! weren’t afraid of pushing musical boundaries, and on (Without Noticing), continued to do so. This resulted in critically acclaimed reviews from critics. However, by then, Fire! had realised the limitations of a trio, and founded the Fire! Orchestra.

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Exit.

In 2011, that the members of Fire decided to expand beyond the core trio. They hit on the idea to expand the group. The way Fire! did this, was to bring onboard the great and the good of Scandinavian jazz, improvisation and avant rock players and vocalists. They called this new musical venture Fire! Orchestra. It was a musical first in Sweden.

The newly named Fire! Orchestra were building on the music of some of the legendary free jazz big bands. This includes the big bands of Sun Ra, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Mike Westbrook and Mike McGregor. There was more to the Fire! Orchestra that free jazz. They incorporated funk, blues, rock and jazz. This became apparent when the Fire! Orchestra made their tentative first steps.

In the beginning, the Fire! Orchestra played just a handful of shows. They were finding their feet musically. Gradually, they were finding their sound. It’s best described as genre-melting and was showcased on their live debut album, Exit.

It was in 2013, when Fire! released their live debut album Exit. Released to widespread critical acclaim, Exit was a genre-melting sound that people wanted to hear more of.

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Enter.

So after playing a couple of concerts early in January 2014, the Fire! Orchestra entered the Svenska Grammofonstudion, in Gothenberg on 10th January 2014. This wasn’t going to be a long session. Instead, the Fire! Orchestra took just one day to record Enter.

The result was an album of music that critics called innovative and progressive. Enter showcased the Fire! Orchestra in full flight. This was an impressive sound. Especially given their fusion of mesomorphic rock rhythms, funk, free jazz and the bluesy, soul-baring vocals of the Fire! Orchestra’s three vocalists. Add to this the scorching free jazz saxophone of Joe McPhee and Enter, has a potent, powerful and captivating sound; which succeeded in bringing back memories of musical luminaries like Sun Ra, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Mike Westbrook and Mike McGregor. So successful was Enter, that Fire! Orchestra released one more album.

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Exit Again.

Just like Exit, Exit Again was another live album. The concert was recorded on 2nd September 2012 at Festival Les Rendez-Vous de L’erdre, in Nantes, France. Joining a slimmed down version of the Fire! Orchestra that night, was guitarist Oren Ambarchi. Joined the great and good of Scandinavian music for what was the Fire! Orchestra’s encore.

When Exit Again was released on 14th January 2014, it was a limited edition release. Only 500 copies of the Exit Again were released on vinyl. Again, the Fire! Orchestra in full flight was an impressive sound. On Second Exit Part One and Second Exit Part Two, the Fire! Orchestra showcase their considerable skills and seamlessly, switch between disparate musical genres. Somehow, it all makes sense, and has the listener wanting to hear more of the Fire! Orchestra.  A new album is planned later in 2016. Before that, Fire released their new album She Sleeps, She Sleeps on Rune Grammofon.

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She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Work began on She Sleeps, She Sleeps back in March 2015. That’s when the three members of Fire! recorded the four songs they had written, and would produce. 

Recording of She Sleeps, She Sleeps took place at Orionteatern studios in Stockholm. When the three members of Fire! began setting up their instruments. Drummer Andreas Werliin unpacked a lap pedal steel guitarist Andreas Werliin. Johan Berthling carefully tuned his trusty double bass. Mats Gustafsson arranged his tenor, baritone and bass saxophones. Meanwhile, Mikael Werliin was preparing to record the session. He also recorded cellist Leo Svensson Sander at Rud Studios, in Stockholm. Halfway around the world, in Melbourne, Australia, guitarist Oren Ambarchi laid down his parts for She Bid A Meaningless Farewell. Once the sessions were complete, the members of Fire! continued to make music with the various projects they were involved with.

Then in the summer of 2015, Mikael Werliin mixed what became She Sleeps, She Sleeps at Studio Oodion, in Gothenberg. All that was left was for Lupo to master the album at Calyx Mastering in Berlin. Once She Sleeps, She Sleeps was mastered, then Fire! could work towards a release date.

Eventually, She Sleeps, She Sleeps was scheduled for release on 19th February 2016, by Rune Grammofon. This was Fire!’s fifth album in seven years, and eight if the three albums by Fire! Orchestra were included. Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin, it seemed, were the hardest working men in Swedish music. Their latest album was She Sleeps, She Sleeps, the long-awaited fifth album from Fire!

She Penetrates The Distant Silence, Slowly opens She Sleeps, She Sleeps. Dramatic bursts of music hang in the air, resonating, before dissipating, only to return. In the process, Fire! have succeeded in grabbing listener’s attention. Then  hissing hi-hats, rolls of drums and a plucked bass propel the arrangement along. As the tempo rises, a braying saxophone takes centre-stage. It’s the star of the show. Slowly and carefully, Mats plays, choosing each note with the utmost care. Behind him, the rhythm section have kicked loose, and are into overdrive. Later, just cymbals and bass provide the backdrop for Mats’ saxophone. His playing is akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt and heartache. What follows is like a free jazz confessional. By the six minute mark, Mats seems almost spent. He’s not though. His playing is like a musical equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy, before the track reaches a crescendo.

There’s an Eastern sound to the bells that chime on She Sleeps, She Sleeps. Meanwhile, the rest of Fire! march to the beat of Andreas’ drum. Slowly and thoughtfully, Johan plucks his bass adding to the moody, broody and understated soundscape. Cymbals crash, bells chime and gradually, a wailing sound grows in power. Soon, Mats’ droning saxophone drifts in and out. Still, understated describes the arrangement. Then Mats unleashes a growling saxophone. Gradually, it becomes melodic, as sounds flit in and out of the arrangement. Some make only a fleeting appearance, others stay longer. This includes Oren Ambarchi’s buzzing, droning guitar. Effects transform the dry sound, giving it an otherworldly, experimental sound. By then, Mats is combining power, passion and his determination to innovate as his saxophone plays the leading role. Behind him, the rhythm section create a hypnotic backdrop on this genre-melting epic, which features Fire! at their innovative best.

Rolls of drums open She Bid A Meaningless Farewell. It sounds as if Andreas’ drums have been multi-tracked, and the merest hint of delay seems to have been added to the double. This means he accompanies himself. Then the groaning saxophone and bass join. Usually, Mats’ saxophone dominates the arrangement. However, Andreas matches Mats all the way, and soon, it’s just the rhythm section that remain. They create a mesmeric, exotic and cinematic sounding arrangement, that sometimes, sounds as if it’s been influenced by world music.

Closing She Sleeps, She Sleeps is She Penetrates The Distant Silence, Slowly is a seventeen minute musical adventure. They’re in no hurry though. For nearly three minutes, it’s just a slow, moody bass that plays. Eventually, percussion and a droning saxophone are joined cymbals that are caressed. Gradually, though, the arrangement seems to have wakened from its slumbers. Bells ring and chime. So do cymbals. Drum rolls and the groaning, growling, howling saxophone combine. By 8.00, Mats is unleashing one of his best solos. It veers between moody, inventive and innovative to melodic. Behind him, the rhythm section lock into a hypnotic groove. Adding to the atmospheric, mesmeric sound is a droning, buzzing cello. It adds to the ominous sound of what sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a new Scandinavian drama or film noir. Fire! it seems, have kept the best until last on She Sleeps, She Sleeps, with what’s worthy of being described as a Magnus Opus.

Just like previous albums by Fire! and the Fire! Orchestra, the music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps is groundbreaking, influential and innovative. It’s music that should influence a new generation of Swedish musicians. Hopefully, they’ll decide to follow in the footsteps of Fire! and create music an album of captivating, progressive album of genre-melting music.

Key to the success of She Sleeps, She Sleeps is Fire!’s ability to seamlessly combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, noise and psychedelic rock. Fire! are like a musical shaman, combining an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres and influences. Playing a leading role in their potent musical potion, are mesomorphic rock rhythms and a braying free jazz saxophone. Opposites it seem, do attract, and indeed, are like a musical yin and yang on She Sleeps, She Sleeps, complimenting the other perfectly. It’s no surprise that She Sleeps, She Sleeps is Fire!’s finest hour.

The music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, through to hypnotic and mesmeric. Other times, the music is akin to a soul-baring confessional, where pain, hurt and heartache pours out of

Mats Gustafson’s saxophone. Then his playing is akin to a musical equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. Once he’s seemingly exercised of demons, it’s all change, and often, the music becomes beautiful and melodic. Always, though, Fire!’s potent and powerful musical cocktail continues to captivate, and proves to be just as progressive and innovative on their latest album She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

FIRE!-SHE SLEEPS, SHE SLEEPS.

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