THE FLAMING FIRE "When the High Bell Rings"
Silly Bird Records SBCD-11 2007
From Aural Innovations #36 (May 2007)
A fantastic collective based apparently in NYC somewhere (or more likely the "Flaming Fire Compound, wherever that may be secreted), these folks are fully prepared for the end of the world and if they can't take us with 'em to outer-space, their music will be a close second (cheeeeezy, maybe...sorry).
Conceptually, musically...I dunno, maybe comparable to something like Gong or Amon Duul II, definitely lots of space/kraut-rock elements, but lots of prog and indie-tinting, too, rustic and spacious, brilliantly amalgamating their diversities into a refreshingly inspired and original sound.
The title-track starts with a twangy riff, angry shouted vox from guru-guy Patrick Hambrecht and a doomy chorus from one of the lady divas (Lauren Weinstein, presumably), a heavy solid rhythm section, banjo and sweet girl-melody in the bridge. These mystics seem resolved to the apparently immanent apocalypse, though through more of a surreal than overly-sentimental vision. "Farmer Wolf" brings more banjo, awesome chant from Patrick, classic out-chorus, the pro/antagonist title-character perhaps symbolic of world leaders in sheep's clothing...all that and these tunes are just plain unusual, inspired, engaging, adept. (Lots of guest musicians appear on many tracks, including Tony Maimone - Pere Ubu, right?).
"Astral Traveler" kicks off with harmonica and transitions into an almost "hardcore" chorus-chant and a heavy-ass fuzz-metal bridge riff. "Dark Night" features more heavy riffing, super-charged verses, cosmic chaotic synth soundscapes ala Hawkwind or Acid Mothers Temple, dreamy jangly-guitar group-chant. "Satellite" is another heavy with a classic-psyche alternating chorus, strange spewed verses, manic synth/key sounds. "The Stars that Burn" - surreal seance-chant of nightmarish visions and epic chants of a child "lalala" chorus, a swirly mess of synth noise, as ever maintaining the meaty band-base of agile bass, drumming and riffage.
The second half of the album contains a couple tracks that wouldn't end up on a personal "best-of", but you have another exceptional chorus-chant in "10 Days", including the lines "get down on your knees and paws/for we are the sons of santa clause/brooklyn pray for your fallen gods/for we are the curse of Kum Bah Ya". Which brings up the question of the group's alleged central belief-system, which apparently is a X-stian-based psychedelia, though I see no direct reference to JC...and I like the group's pagan-ish barks, squaks, howls and squeals in "Farmer Wolf". Interesting, too, though, their web-site project of illustrating the entire King James Bible.
Anyway...There is still the excellent intensity of "Shouting", the sarcastically humorous "Lemon Isis", a brief dissertation on the role of incest and phallusism in the history of mythology and religion. "Khar Shabi" is a tribal chant based on a traditional Tajikstani folk song (...got that from the liners...). "The Moon" closes as a lengthy experimental electronic piece.
Choice stuff for Space/Kraut/Psyche/Prog/Indie-Rock people, or any combination thereof.
Visit the band on the web at: http://www.flamingfire.com
Visit the Silly Bird Records web site at: http://www.sillybirdrecords.com/
Reviewed by Chuck