Set Fire To Flames are a collective of thirteen musicians engaged in the independent, hyper-creative musical community of Montreal (including members of Exhaust, Fly Pan Am, godspeed you black emperor!, Hanged Up, HRSTA, squintfucker press, undo…. ).
Exploring the boundaries of freedom, the project emerged from the initial desire of the artists to fully immerse and engage themselves in the process of group improvisation without getting so heavily caught up in what the end results would sound like: ‘none of us thought that the final results would end up on a record, [we wanted] to conduct the whole five day recording session like a series of experiments—-to get lost in the sound as it was actually happening—-to make the whole recording an exploded intense event—-to push tolerance levels and limitations with a group of people sonically…’
Their first album, ‘Sings Reign Rebuilder’, released in October of 2001, resonates intensely with political expression and collective questioning, where the personal is deeply, inextricably political. Voices from the edge bear testament to the disguised agendas that govern our lives, to the brutality and restrictions rained down on any attempt to live freely. Shot through with a palpable sense of love, loss, and (semi-thwarted) adventure, with tension, discomfort, world-weariness, the album grips the heart and drags the listener to spaces beyond language, beyond which mere words are rendered clumsy, and cumbersome, utterly inadequate.
Following this up, ‘Telegraphs In Negative / Mouths Trapped In Static’ was released in April 2003. This album, like the first, was founded in a situation of self-imposed isolation, with the band operating both individually and communally in states of little or no sleep, in varying levels of intoxication, and in physical confinement. Having located a huge, cathedral-like barn at an old, abandoned farm in rural Ontario, the band rented and hauled a mammoth twenty-four track machine and a cube truck full of gear out to this desolate site and set up to record.
Whilst the product of an equally intense and gruellingly-focused recording process, the results of ‘telegraphs…’ are undeniably sparser and more tempered than before. There is a deeper studio sorcery at work here, and more tape manipulation / composition this time around. Drifting between a beautifully radiant, elevated drone-shimmer and a totally tactile, dirt-grained grounding in location, the album is perhaps even scarier / more abrasive than its predecessor, and confirms set fire to flames as one of the most adventurous, skilled and ambitiously creative groups of their generation.