Friday, February 19, 2016

Song of the Day #276 - Fire! Orchestra - Exit! Part One

And fire, fire stay with me...

Alright, have you had enough Kanye? Have you had enough hip hop in general, maybe? Is it time for another "probe deep but narrowly into a random genre and speak unintelligibly" Song of the Day? Is it time to tackle the big beast of jazz, the purest form of the energy that fuels much of the music most beloved to me today? Not just "jazz", which would cover the classics everyone knows ("Miles-Coltrane-The-List-Goes-On-Core"), but modern jazz, jazz that continues to push boundaries, jazz that embodies the spirit that pushed those classics ahead of public preparation when they were released. Maybe something we could call "free jazz" or "Kraut jazz" or "experimental jazz" or "psychedelic jazz". Or maybe something where we've pushed the word "jazz" past semantic sensibility, to the point where it's stopped looking like a word, and maybe we should just give up on any sort of label.

So let's not bother trying to do any sort of greater contextual reading and just talk about exactly what's going on with this release, because there's a lot, and it's all really cool. Boasting dozens of instrumentalists and singers, Fire! Orchestra seems like it would require the precision of carefully sculpted compositions to avoid crashing into total chaotic cacophony. And sure, many parts are guided into steady rhythms and melodies, providing a line of stability upon which the rest of the track grows. But even then, there's a sense of "life" to it, existing more in the potential than what is actually heard... every instrument still feels as if it is progressing in these lines, no matter how simple and repetitive, with an agency and purpose; that instead of being instructed to do so, they have voluntarily built this foundation, and they continue with each note having judged it to be the truest creative representation at each moment.

And on top of that we get the instruments that move more wildly, swirling about the steady elements like moths near a flame, always caught between the burning desire and the burn itself. The solos are rapid, technical, complex, interweaving with each other with a preciseness and consistency that again seems to demand some prescribed pattern. But at the same time, it is impossible to picture any sort of "sheet music" that could possibly contain this... so I have to conclude it is, like... some combination of improvisation and muscle memory, like, some sort of "microchunking" that allows them to always make moves that are musically compelling and interact well with each other, but can be called upon at different times through emotional whims. It seems very "virtuoso". I think this is how it works.

And on top of that, we get the vocals, which are beautiful and powerful and mysterious and serve as the central motivating force of the track, taking us from the greater emotional segments. The lyrics are pretty cryptic... the whole "fire stay with me" stuff reminds me a lot of Fire Walk with Me, the title of the Twin Peaks movie, and once I connect something with Lynch, for whatever reason, I fall into a bottomless pit of aesthetic meaning, and nothing becomes too weird or cryptic to consider. The "where are the images" lines are thus loaded with all sorts of potential, a myriad of readings each equally plausible, such that what lingers more than any single impression is the overpowering sensation of the number of possibilities. And that, I think, is the true image of the "fire", maybe - this creative bursting potential, this feeling of limitlessness... the unpredictable form of fire, the all-consuming form of fire...

In the first half, the fire roars to life in an ever-evolving fractal explosion over a fast, rockish beat... It has a sort of Krautrock feeling to it, where it moves in dimensions of dynamic range, harmony width, pitch depth, and especially melodic complexity, all at once. The solo instruments all seem like uhh those twisty missiles with long smoke trails that fly all over the place in mecha anime... if you know what I'm talking about you'll agree that this is the greatest analogy of all time.

Then, the transition to the second half, where all is diminished but the vocals, and it feels like the fire is now departing, and the song becomes a sorrowful prayer... and that bass line comes in? Oh my god, that bass line?? How did they do that? How is it so addictive, so huge, feeling like you want every movement and thought in your body to surge alongside it. And the way everything blooms and flies around it is just such an impressive moving demonstration of the value of this type of composition, this style of music making... geez, I dunno, there's not much sensible I can say about it. And this is only part one!!

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