The Squid's Ear Magazine

Fire!: The Hands (Rune Grammofon)

The genre-defying trio Fire! with Mats Gustafsson on saxophones & electronics, Andreas Werliin on drums, percussion and effects, and Johan Berthling on upright and electric bass, blend heavy and dark elements of free improvisation, free rock, free blues, sound and noise, and sampled overlays in their latest, cultured and crude album of brooding and gripping music.

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product information:

UPC: 7033662021970

Label: Rune Grammofon
Catalog ID: RCD 2197CD
Squidco Product Code: 25312

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: Norway
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Bruket, in Sickla, Sweden, on May 10th, 11th and 12th, 2017, by Andreas Werliin and Anton Sundell.


Andreas Werliin-drums, percussion, effects

Johan Berthling-electric bass, double bass

Mats Gustafsson-tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, electronics

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Very much a tight knit unit with three equal players, Fire! has been likened to powerful guitar led trios such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but with Johan Berthling's heavy, doom-laden basslines being such a typical identifier, you can't help but think of Black Sabbath's debut album (1970) when it comes to hypnotic impact. The Hands is the trio's sixth album and it once again displays a totally uncompromising and intriguing mix of (mostly) heavy, dark, and intensely burning music whether one decides to call it jazz or rock. The album closes on a quiet and reflective note with the appropriately titled "I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence." And you might say it's easily their best so far. Personnel: Mats Gustafsson - tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, live electronics; Johan Berthling - electric and double bass; Andreas Werliin - drums, percussion and feedback.

"Life gets heavy. It seems to gather increasing weight and density as you progress through it until you either reach a point where you feel able to discard this accumulated mass or you let it drag you down and you spend endless days and nights carting a ballast of woe and regret with you in every move you make. Eventually, that becomes unsustainable and the very structures which keep you alive and moving will collapse under this dark pressure. You become like a deep sea behemoth floating ever downwards under the weight of the clustered barnacles and limpets which have attached themselves to your outer surface and fed upon your life force.

Unless you do something. Make something. Don't let existence turn you into Mek-Quake's next order of "Big Jobs!" even as he's chewing up twisted pieces of sentient machinery in his robotic jaws with you waiting in line. There is something of that desperate desire to communicate, to move on and to validate oneself in whatever world possible, in the brutal yet cathartic pummelling of Fire!'s sixth album. As tools must be found in order to salvage wrecks, so The Hands rip you through the weary dregs and exhausted lows until some form of forward momentum can finally be engaged. You need hands.

Despite my initial misgivings around their debut 2009 release, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, and a suspicion that this was a short-lived side project for the three players, Fire! have grown in stature and strength with each album ploughing deeper and heavier into their increasingly ferocious take on drone rock spliced with free jazz. Johan Berthling's bass on The Hands now sounds dredged up from the same overloaded and engorged morass as Al Cisneros's playing in Sleep. He's amply matched by Andreas Werliin's drum work sliding effortlessly from nimble tom patters to bone-crunching troll beats while Mats Gustafsson, whose sax has never sounded more bloodied and bruised than it does here, now has a three-piece unit easily The Thing's equal in sheer heft and force.

Consisting of seven relatively short pieces across 36 minutes, The Hands plays like a succession of scenes or vignettes all attempting to communicate some opaque and unsayable knowledge. The title track opens the album with scrapes and scratches before detonating into a sharp metallic groove over which Gustafsson's sax squeals with such ferocious focus that you can picture the whites of his eyes boring into your skin. Other tracks, such as 'When Her Lips Collapsed' and 'Touches Me With The Tips of Wonder', have Gustafsson playing as a gurgling guttural wail, a blues from a snowy grave, or mournfully smearing himself in solace and sorrow across Berthling and Werliin's solid yet ever-shifting rhythms."-Euan Andrews, The Quietus

Also available on vinyl LP.
Get additional information at The Quietus

Artist Biographies

"Andreas Werliin (* 1982 ) is a Swedish drummer of creative jazz and new improvisational music .

Werliin, who grew up in Strömstad , studied at the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg. There he met his wife, Mariam Wallentin , with whom he formed the duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums . The band presented several albums since 2007 and toured internationally, in 2008 it was awarded the Swedish Jazzact of the Year.

With Mats Gustafsson and Johan Berthling he formed the trio Fire! , Who went to Japantournee with Jim O'Rourke in 2010, and since 2013 for now (2016) four albums to the large format Fire! Orchestra. In 2010, Dan Berglund got him to his Tonbruket project, which then became a collaborative band, which was awarded the Gyllene Skivan in 2012 and the Jazzkattan in 2016."

-Wikipedia translated by Google (

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"Johan Berthling (* 1973 in Stockholm ) is a Swedish jazz and improvisational musician ( contrabass , electric bass , also piano ).

Berthling studied at the Royal Music College in Stockholm from 1996-1998 . Since then, he has worked in the Swedish and international jazz and improvisation scene in various ensembles including David Stackenäs , Raymond Strid , Fredrik Ljungkvist , Sten Sandell , Paal Nilssen-Love , Akira Sakata , Mats Gustafsson , Jonas Kullhammar and the Christer Bothén Acoustic Ensemble. In the field of jazz, he was involved in 23 recording sessions between 1996 and 2014. He also worked with folkmusicist and songwriter Nicolai Dunger ( roasting och herren , 2007)."

-Wikipedia translated by Google (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
"Born 1964 in Umeå, Northern Sweden.Saxplayer, improviser and composer. Solo artist and international tours and projects with a.o. Sonic Youth, Merzbow, Jim O´Rourke, Barry Guy, Otomo Yoshihide, Yoshimi, Ken Vandermark and in working groups The Thing, FIRE!, Gush, Boots Brown, Swedish Azz and Fake (the facts). Large ensemble work with Barry Guy New Orchestra,FIRE! Orchestra and the NU - ensemble.over 1800 concerts and over 200 record productions in Europe, Australia, Africa, North & South America and Asia.Collaborations with contemporary dance, theater, art, poetry as well as projects with noise, electronica, contemporary rock and free jazz.Discaholic - running the discaholic corner website.Producer of international festivals and concert tours as well as work with own record labels Slottet, OlofBright Editions and Blue Tower Records."-Mats Gustafsson Website (

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Track Listing:

1. The Hands 4:39

2. When Her Lips Collapsed 4:53

3. Touches Me with the Tips of Wonder 3:31

4. Washing Your Heart in Filth 4:54

5. Up. And Down. 4:45

6. To Shave the Leaves. In Red. In Black 9:10

7. I Guard Her to Rest. Declaring Silence. 4:50

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
European Improvisation and Experimental Forms
Trio Recordings
Mats Gustafsson
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Rock Forms

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