(without noticing)
Rune grammofon RCD 2146

Some years ago, probably tongue in cheek, an astute Jazz critic opined that if teenagers would only realize that playing Free Jazz records would piss their parents off as much as Heavy Metal does, than experimental improvised sounds would become widely popular. With the mass media’s feeble grasp of non-mainstream music that hasn’t happened of course. But if the possibility still exists than Sweden’s Fire is the perfect band to make the breakthrough.

As in many of his other projects with everyone from pianist Sten Sandell to guitarist Thurston Moore, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has already demonstrated that he has the iron lungs and stamina to blow with the ferocity of any Metal guitarist. During the course of (without noticing)’s seven tracks he does so to the limits of his tenor and baritone saxophones’ range, further congealing the results with thickening patterns produced by organ, electric piano and electronics. Most of the pieces are propelled along rhythmically by the sluicing bass line of Johan Berthling who furthermore introduces so-called effects and piano chording to the nearly opaque narratives. Added to the weighty interface is the thumping backbeat of drummer Andreas Werliin, whose day job is as one-half of experimental pop duo, Wildbirds & Peacedrums.

Unfolding in bite-sized portions, Fire’s strategy of reed overblowing and reflux, measured bass stops and pummeling drums gains in strength and intensity from track to track. But because of the musicians’ abilities the seven tunes are tempered with textural erudition that includes unpredictable multiphonics, unexpected breaks and splintered rhythmic impetus.

The climax is attained on “Tonight. More. Much More. (Without Noticing)” and “Molting Slowly (Without Noticing)”, that follow one another. Sounding as if its melody is pop-song based, the first tune blends minimalist keyboard comping, electronic shudders and a repetative saxophone phrase into an embryonic line that when mixed with organ and drum riffs becomes massively hypnotic. An extension of this presentation, “Molting Slowly (Without Noticing)”, progresses in an opposing fashion. While the bassist maintains the dirge-like tempo, Gustafsson bites and snarls in an agitated and staccato fashion to fragment the exposition, then bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion with crying, nephritic split tones.

In truth while many of Fire’s fuzzy interactions plus split-second rhythm and tempo changes may prove too much for the average Metal fan, the sheer ferocity of its presentation should nonetheless excite those who hear the disc. More significantly the sonic dexterity displayed by the trio, won’t alienate and may impress, improvised music fans who know of the band members real-life identities.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Standing On A Rabbit (Without Noticing) 2. Would I Whip (Without Noticing) 3. Your Silhouette On Each (Without Noticing) 4. At Least On Your Door (Without Noticing) 5. Tonight. More. Much More. (Without Noticing) 6. Molting Slowly (Without Noticing) 7. I Mostly Stare (Without Noticing)

Personnel: Mats Gustafsson (tenor and baritone saxophones, organ, electric piano and electronics); Johan Berthling (bass, piano and effects) and Andreas Werliin (drums)