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Fire On Fire / The Orchard / Review

gigwise.com(UK) / Janne Oinonen

an absolute must-hear for anyone keen to discover just how much high voltage acoustic instruments can whip up... ...'Orchard’ is something totally, refreshingly different.

Gigwise.com. (uk)

http://www.gigwise.com/reviews/albums/51023/Fire-on-Fire---The-Orchard-Young
-God-Released-010609

Fire on Fire - 'The Orchard' (Young God)
Released 01/06/09

an absolute must-hear for anyone keen to discover just how much high voltage
acoustic instruments can whip up...

by Janne Oinonen

May 26, 2009




Some bands’ biographies are just a bit too perfect. Take Fire on Fire as an
example. Their back-story – the five-piece sharing a run-down blue farm
house in the deepest, darkest rural Maine like some psychedelically mangled
Monkees, with a battered mandolin in one hand and a jug of lethally potent
moonshine in the other – sounds suspiciously like the type of make-believe
crafted by a label in the hope of infusing some magic to the mundane.
For once, the music matches the far-fetched scenario. Whilst Fire on Fire’s
self-titled, excellent 2007 debut EP was still audibly indebted to the
then-fresh US odd-folk sounds, ‘Orchard’ is something totally, refreshingly
different. Imagine an outfit armed with an uncommonly well-stocked junk
store’s worth of arcane instruments - harmoniums, banjos, dobros, accordions
- existing in a hermetically sealed, candlelit bubble, with only a tiny
sliver of modernity allowed to infiltrate the authentically old-timey feel
of the setting. Add an unshakeable and well-founded belief in the creative
potential of the time-worn templates of folk tradition and a knack for
cutting tracks bluegrass-style, with the whole combo executing their
communal hollering, ramshackle yet sweet harmonies and intricate picking ‘n’
strumming in front of a single microphone. You’ve landed with a fairly
accurate idea of what ‘Orchard’ sounds like: simultaneously timeless and
unmistakably ‘now’; equally indebted to vintage weirdness of ‘Anthology of
American Folk Music’ and updated takes thereof executed by the likes of
Akron/Family; unable to decide whether to be hillbillies or hipsters and
deciding to put a foot in each camp, with genuinely striking results that
conjure images of foot-stomping front-porch jamborees set at some
indefinable point somewhere between 1909 and 2009.
Not that ‘Orchard’ is entirely perfect. A few tunes outstay their welcome; a
couple of others are disfigured by lack of killer melodies. But faced with
the likes of the title track (a tear-stained, sepia-tinged Tom Waits-meets-A
Hawk and A Hacksaw loveliness), the revival tent fervour of ‘Sirocco’ or the
stately sweep of ‘Flordinese’ - reminiscent of a particularly dazzling
example of CSNY-style harmony-laden supergroup produce, distilled down to
its basic elements to better let the swooning melodies sparkle - such minor
grumbles can easily be overlooked. Fired up by intense outbreaks of barely
controlled energy and excitement totally at odds with the usual horizontal
feel of standard-issue ‘folky’ fare, ‘Orchard’s an absolute must-hear for
anyone keen to discover just how much high voltage acoustic instruments can
whip up.

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