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Set Fire To Flames – Sings Reign Rebuilder

Label: 130701(UK, Europe)/Alien8(North America)/P-Vine(Japan) Format: CD,2LP

Sings Reign Rebuilder - sleeve detailThis recording contains the result of collaborative jamming from musicians including members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Fly Pan Am and Exhaust. They set up in a house in Montreal, ‘an old falling down monstrosity’, and recorded solidly for five days more concerned with the actual experience of collective playing/recording than the end results. But it’s the end results that we have here.

It is like being taken on a tour of the creaky old apartment where the recording took place and hearing different musics from the 13 players at different times. Drums echo, sparse guitars picks at fragile melody, a violin weaves in and fades away. There is some remarkably delicate music here and not just flat-out improvisation. Cello and electronic scratchings rise and fall over hypnotic drumbeats, drones are set up then dissolve while less identifiable noises come from other sources, presumably the house itself . On one track there is an inspired duet between bass clarinet and French horn. Elsewhere voice and other samples are taken from ‘audio-fishing’, that is, the compulsive need to record whatever sounds occur in specific locations. So the sounds of the neighbourhood, police sirens, fragments of conversation, traffic and the creaking and settling of the house are a part of the overall structure of this oddly beautiful and haunting album.

Moods shift and new atmospheres are developed within individual tracks but the whole recording fits seamlessly together, mixing composed and improvised music in such a way that you cannot tell them apart. And why should you anyway. I think this reflects the painstaking care with which the five days of material have been edited and assembled. Or ‘hacked apart and then reassembled into a 73 minute monstrosity’ as the promo sheet would have it. Whatever the collective and individual experiences of those involved might have been the final results are subtle and intriguing. Listening to it as darkness falls in the murk of a November afternoon may help but whatever the listener’s surroundings this is a compelling documentation of a time and place. Something special to be given careful attention.

-Paul Donnelly-

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