A fascinating journey, a peaceful reflection, a shocking expansion of mind. This album's got everything and then some; probably my favourite of 2019
Favorite track: She Was Me, My Name Was Surrounded.
Fire-Toolz is the flagship musical project of a consciousness that has taken the physical form of a transfemme non-binary human named Angel Marcloid. While her orbiting projects like Nonlocal Forecast and MindSpring Memories find Marcloid pursuing discrete, genre-specific composition in styles like jazz fusion or sample collage respectively, Fire-Toolz compresses tropes and ideas from virtually every style of music in her vast toolbox into combinatory pieces overloaded with novel juxtapositions and intricate structural decisions. Field Whispers (Into The Crystal Palace) marks Fire-Toolz’s first release with Orange Milk Records, following two full-lengths on Hausu Mountain (2017’s Drip Mental and 2018’s Skinless X-1) and an album with Bedlam Tapes (2017's Interbeing). While Marcloid maintains the level of compositional density and multi-aesthetic overload she pursued on her previous releases, Field Whispers finds her working within a palette of modern sound design presented at a greater depth of resolution and detail than ever before. While at times splintering her tracks into her typically momentary fragments, she also explores the possibilities of longer, more focused passages of sustained tension within the territory of the Fire-Toolz project while upholding a long-held commitment to never tread the same ground twice.
Field Whispers draws inspiration from a wide array of non-musical concepts that Marcloid explores in her extensive reading regimen in subjects like quantum physics, nondual spirituality, and philosophy. While her complex conceptions of fields of study like the holographic principle of reality, Advaita Vedanta, and Epicurianism serve as oblique backdrops for her production decisions and the fractal structural layouts of her tracks, she also channels pure emotion from the mundanities of her daily life: her memories of suburban life growing up, the pure beauty of the natural world around her, and the joy derived from her relationships with her loved ones and cherished pets. While these concepts offer a jumping point for her music, in practice the tropes of innumerable styles and genres pop up in each of her varied compositions. The baroque harmonic structures and intricate lead lines of jazz fusion and prog crash directly into passages of ambient amorphousness or hyper-detailed noise production marked by rushes of static texture and delicately spatialized alien sound sources. While Field Whispers slightly deviates from her previous focus on the tactics of black metal and death metal, including harsh vocal shrieks and rushes of warp speed drum programming, these elements still surface from time to time as striking complements to her more abstract compositional strategies, grounding her pieces in a more technical practice in keeping with the presentation of a full band metal performance. Passages of searing guitar playing, be it two-hand tapped lead lines or towering power metal solos, pop into view for a few moments before getting subsumed back into the bedrock of electronic sound sources that lay beneath each track.
Marcloid has a contentious relationship with the international diaspora of vaporware and its many offshoots. She actively produces within the genre’s tenets with projects like MindSpring Memories (see: recontextualization of pre-exisitng muzak and fusion compositions, variations in tempo, heavy effects processing) and has explored the scene through the prolific output of her labels Swamp Circle and Rainbow Bridge. Fire-Toolz, on the other hand, represents a near-complete break with vaporwave by way of the project’s focus on completely original productions, harmonic progressions, and live instrumental input. While Field Whispers might seem allied to vaporware in its post-digital, internet-fueled collage aesthetic and its occasional utilization of chintzy or MIDI-tone timbres, in truth Marcloid carefully programs and painstakingly performs each of the elements she threads through her tracks, pushing the project closer to the realms of combinatory prog and experimental sound design. With Field Whispers, Fire-Toolz once again proves her mettle as a nuanced composer who funnels a vast reservoir of lived and learned experience into complex compositions weighted with enough contrasting emotions and sound sources to match the overwhelming density of her lived experience.
released August 30, 2019
Angel Marcloid: voice, drums, electric & acoustic guitar, fretless bass, virtual studio technology, field recordings, circuit-bent junk, composition, lyrics, recording, production, mixing, mastering
Ian Smith: saxophone on Clear Light
Breakfast: Meow & meal on Sunbears
Visual art by Keith Rankin
In everliving memory of my soulmate, eternally cozy in the arms of Light, the feline body-mind we call Breakfast (2002-2018)