The Fireman - "Rushes"
(Juggler Music 1998, 7243 4 97055 2 4)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
It's a pleasure to know that Paul McCartney is still interested in sound and pure musical possibilities not having left all that behind in the 60's. That's right. This is Paul McCartney. This is, in fact, his second release under the Fireman moniker, though you won't find his name anywhere on the CD or liner notes. I actually had no idea this existed until a friend played it for me recently. The music on Rushes is dreamy ambient music that mixes lots of wild space sounds making it a bit more adventurous than most ambient recordings.
The disc opens with "Watercolour Guitars". The song starts with a repeating acoustic guitar melody embellished by various shooting star space synths. The synths temporarily take over and then the song blends right into "Palo Verde". The melody doesn't change at first, but the pace picks up just a little and includes lots of little voice samples, our only concrete hint of McCartney's presence. The music is very laid back and, though they are prominent, the subtle little sound textures are easy to miss.
"Auraveda" opens with an Indian motif. Sitars, tablas, and chanting create a dreamy Eastern atmosphere. It's hard to describe but I also hear those played backwards synth sounds heard so long ago on Magical Mystery Tour. But these are only embellishments. Soon the Indian theme drops slightly into the background as it's joined by a minimalist organ sounding instrument.
"Fluid" is another dreamy piece that actually sounds like an old Ash Ra Tempel track. The guitar sounds very much like Manuel Gottsching and is combined with similar Ash Ra electronic excursions. "Bison" is one of the shortest, but also one of my favorite tracks. Jazzy rhythms, a dissonant guitar melody, orchestral space keys, mellotron, and the now trademark voicings make for a cosmic stew. "7am" is another ambient Ash Ra type electronic tune, again with mellotron sounds providing an eerie orchestral background. And McCartney's voice, for the first time, pops up briefly with no effects.
This is music that would typically relax the listener, but there are enough extra touches that you just can't help paying too much attention to be relaxed. To those who are surprised by the existence of this McCartney project, bear in mind that this writer of silly love songs was also experimenting with music and sound back when all our favorite space pioneers were getting started as well. I searched the internet for information about this project and all I could find was discussion list archives in which participants did nothing but try to find hidden meanings in the songs. It figures... Note that this should be very easy to find in your local record store.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz