Set Fire To Flames - Sings Reign Rebuilder
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Set Fire To Flames
Sings Reign Rebuilder
(Alien8Recordings / Alien8 Recordings)

I've had this release for a long time now, and I've listened to it countless times, but I'm still having sort of a hard time coming up with a lot of words to describe it. As you may or may not know by now, the group is sort of a Montreal supergroup, comprised of about 13 different people and includes members of Godspeed You Black Emperor, as well as other well-known artists from the area like Mike Moya. The thing with this release, though, is that you can't go into it expecting certain things, as this was my problem. With 13 different people involved, including the people mentioned above, I was expecting something thunderous.

Instead, Sings Reign Rebuilder is a slow-burner of an album. Contributors come and go, often times leaving sonic evidence of their coming and going, and the loud points are few and far between while more subtle dynamics are explored on the rest of the release. As the liner notes state, most of the recording was done in a collapsing old house (no doubt dodging anti-squatter regulations), and there are many points where you're made aware of that point and the setting actually becomes a large part of the recording. You can hear floors creaking as people move across them, as well as general ambience from outside (did a police car just go by?) that comes in at other points.

Although it's probably redundant to even mention it, this release does have some things in common with the more drawn out passages on GYBE's first album f#a# infinity. The album starts out with a short field recording of a man speaking and some singing and traffic noises before drifting into a quiet guitar/cello duet that is so pretty that I actually wish it was a bit longer. From there, the album goes into the epic-length "Vienna Arcweld/Fucked Gamelan/Rigid Tracking" that wheezes for over half the length of the 13-minute track with only some minimal guitar foolery (scrapes, taps) before finally coalescing into something during the last few minutes. In a more fullfilling way, "Steal Compass" turns a quiet guitar melody on it's head and into a shimmering, gorgeous crescendo of sound by the end. Like "Blaise Baily Finnegan" from GYBE's Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, "Wild Dogs Of The Thunderbolt" mixes the ramblings of a possible madman with mourning strings to a nice effect.

On "There Is No Dance In Frequency And Balance," the group actually brings sort of a swaggering rhythm into the mix before they let Aidan from One Speed Bike (and drummer of GYBE!) really crank things up for the second half of it with chunky electronic beats and rattling static. It almost sounds out-of-place next to the rather deliberate pacing of the rest of the disc, but it's a welcome change and burst of noise coming about one-third of the way through the almost 75-minute long release. Even though you can hear people shuffling around and walking during "When I First Get To Phoenix," the haunting tones that are the main part of the song will still send chills up the back of your neck.

Overall, if you like the sounds of the groups mentioned above, you're definitely not going to go wrong with this release. It definitely takes a little longer to develop than other bands that the people involved are members of, but the group has also managed to create some amazing textural spaces and that sense of decay that seems to inhabit many of the recordings from the area. Although this is largely an improvisational recording, there are a lot of amazing moments on the disc. As usual, the packaging on the release is impeccable, and adds a nice visual element to it. Some may argue that this entire cinematic soundscape theme has already been milked to death, but as this release proves, I think there's still a lot of room left for expansion.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00