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Fire! Orchestra: Exit!

Beguiling Scando-jazz freakery.

This really shouldn’t work at all. A 28-piece band comprising four drummers, numerous guitarists and a hulking brass section housing at least five sax players.

Yet the triumph of this unwieldy ‘supergroup’ is that it never collapses under the weight of its own ambition. Centred around Mats Gustafsson (The Thing), Johan Berthling (Tape) and Andreas Werliin, drummer of Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Exit! finds the Swedish trio joined by an orgy of native talent from the avant-rock and free jazz realm.

The two extended tracks here are in the exploratory vein of Sun Ra or Charlie Haden. There’s plenty of squawky brass and improv, but the insidious bassline of Part One grounds things in a rich melody, while the mantric vocals of Mariam Wallentin and Sofie Jernberg make it all sound like Grace Slick fronting an absurdly trippy jazz band.

Part Two is less easily penetrable but just as rewarding. The orchestra travel even further out, creating a visceral mix of drone rock and sound collage, all coming to a head with a climactic squall of noise and a wailing banshee scream.

Pipe-and-slippers prog it isn’t. Instead this is a highly charged, often thrilling journey to the outer reaches.

Rob Hughes
Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.