SET FIRE TO FLAMES Sings Reign Rebuilder (Alien8 Recordings)
Set Fire To Flames are another Godspeed You Black Emperor! spin-off band, and, in the light of the lukewarm reviews granted to The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band's new album in the last issue it might be time to start worrying whether the band are spinning themselves a little too thinly. Featuring a thirteen-piece ensemble drafted from both the aforementioned groups and Exhaust, Fly Pan Am and Hanged Up, "Sings Reign Rebuilder" was apparently recorded in a condemned house - from the booklet notes: "Since 1878 this house has been a brothel/and a 10c shoe shine parlour/and a good home to many many people/animals/ghosts---your bulldozers and wrecking ball can make match-sticks out of the rickety stair case and crookt/creaking floorboards--but they can't erase the recording that was made here".
All of which might lead you to expect something quietly mighty, but unfortunately "Sings Reign Rebuilder" has to be the least involving Godspeed family project released so far. Yes, it's heavily laden with the expected wisdom of ranting roadside philosophers and the (increasingly ever more) occasional outbreak of gorgeous melancholy, but there are vast quantities of the four (160 gram) sides of vinyl that seem to be occupied by little other than the hums and rattles of instruments and electronics left to fend for themselves in a deserted house, the tiny sounds they make to each other when there aren't any adults around to hear them and beat, stroke or cajole them into patterns pleasing to the human ear. You're left grasping at the merely quite good to take away with you: "There Is No Dance In Frequency And Balance", for example, begins as sidling, sneaky jazz fusion, a poverty line cousin to Miles Davis' "On The Corner", perhaps, before morphing into industrial clatter. The closer "Fading Lights Are Fading /Reign Rebuilder" almost makes an indentation on the listener's mind, but ambles away small and slight, whereas in olden times it would have grown into a craggy, mighty power. Of course, the packaging is immaculate - fuzzy photos, reasonably heavy vinyl, a 24-page booklet, and I particularly like the Lubri-Lo recording wire adverts on the labels ("1 hour recording-playback 7200 feet at 2 feet per second"! - although it wouldn't surprise me if Set Fire To Flames actually used the stuff!) - but "Sings Reign Rebuilder" is slumped at the wrong end of the Godspeed family's recent downward quality spiral. And I can't help feeling that some of their run-out groove pronouncements ("Set fire to cop cars/office towers") might have been tragically overtaken by recent events.
A Silver Mt. Zion
Godspeed You Black Emperor!