F-IRE Works: Vol.2 ****
Includes tracks by Acoustic Ladyland, Bakehouse, Cloen Revisited, Polar Bear, Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet, Ingrid Laubrock and Liam Noble, Oriole, Squash Recipe, Basquiat Strings, Meta Meta, Panacea, Spin Marvel, Dr Seus, Fulborn Teversham. Rec. 2004-5
It really couldn't be made any clearer after listening to this stimulating, fantasy-fuelled 2-CD compilation that there's no such thing as an actual F-ire 'sound'. Although the young London-based creative jazz music collective started out a decade ago learning to play latin and African groove music, it has now become a hotbed of diverse music experimentation and this 2-CD compilation on its recording offshoot sums this up well.
CD-1 draws on tracks from recent CD releases by a host of boundary-pushing, distinctive young bands some of which can pretty musch be held responsible for making the UK contemporary jazz scene tick so loudly at the moment, among them names you're likely to have heard before, Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland, and lesser know vocalist Julia Biel, guitarist Jonny Phillips' Oriole and Justin Quinn's Bakehouse, whose track 'Don't Fret' sounds like an updated version of something off of DJ Giles Peterson's Impressed CDs. We also get some sneak previews of albums to come - Check out the quirky Hermeto-meets-Stravinsky imaginings of keyboardist Nick Ramm's Clown Revisited especially.
CD-2's mainly made up of exclusive recordings featuring an intriguing mix of approaches to using electronics by some of the same artists but in different permusations. The track 'Treetops' by the deliciously dream-like folkish jazz singer-songwriter Julia Biel has been cunningly transformed from seductive tango to eelctronic chanson with a chunkily metallic groove by virtue of a remix by drummer Seb Rochford, while an Eno-like riff and sub bass shifts up the gears for the out chorus. Meanwhile flautist Finn Peters' Dr Seus plays trickily whitty loops of jazz flute and samples over a jaunty hip hop break.
However, most of the material on CD-2 is not so approachable and for much of it patience has its rewards, as repeated listening to Martin France's Spin Marvel's suspensefull goth-electronic percussion discussion, the skewed M-Base-type funk-meets-haunting synth-tinted jazz-soul of pianist Robert Mitchell's Panacea, and the uncompromisingly insidious saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock's duet with Polar Bear's digital noise sculptor Leafcutter John all demonstrate. Again, ample proof if needed that F-IRE doesn't have a 'sound' as such, just plenty of thrillingly adventurous things to say.