Set Fire To Flames are an offshoot of near legendary experimental rock group, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A 13-strong collective, featuring members of Godspeed together with other members of Montreal’s thriving musical community, Set Fire To Flames have produced a challenging but rewarding debut album.
GYBE have often been cited as the inspiration for bands such as Mogwai, Tortoise and Spiritualized so it’s fair to say that the clued up listener will know what to expect here. This is real free-form experimentation being played here, and includes tracks named There Is No Dance In Frequency & Balance and Shit-Heap-Gloria Of The New Town Planning. It’s a fair way from your usual ‘girl meets boy’ love songs.
The album kicks off with the haunting I Will Be True/Sings Reign Rebuilder (Head) which mixes the genuine sounds of a typical night on a city street with a beautiful guitar motif. It sounds like the closing scene from the best movie you’ve never seen, and starts the record perfectly. It doesn’t quite set the tone of the whole album though – the next track is one of the most bizarre things you’ll ever hear. Vienna Arcweld/Fucked Gamelan/Rigid Tracking is over 13 minutes long, and the first half of the piece is simply improvised percussion. All the while, a violin very gradually builds in the background until by the end of the track it dominates proceedings. People with short attention spans will simply hit the ‘next’ button after two minutes, but for those who stick with it, it makes for mesmeric listening.
While some tracks on this record can be hard to listen to, others are simply gorgeous. Love Song For 15 Ontario brings to mind regular David Lynch composer, Angelo Badalamenti while the deep bass clarinet sound on Esquimalt Harbour adds a slightly unsettling air to an atmospheric track. Apparently, the samples of city life that are heard throughout the album were actually recorded over a five day period in Canada. It’s an inspired idea which gives the songs a new dimension – the frequent interspersions from Lying Dying Wonder Body are sometimes quite eerie.
Even if some of the tracks on this album sometimes resemble the Fast Show sketch, Jazz Club, Set Fire To Flames have produced an excellent album with their own stamp of originality on it. If you’re a fan of Godspeed You Black Emperor! then you’ll certainly be chomping at the bit to own this. Anyone else would be advised to give it a try – it may not seem like your cup of tea, but you could be pleasantly surprised.