More Press Kudos for Fire on Fire’s debut EP

New England’s Fire on Fire released their debut recording with very little upfront fanfare but almost immediately music journalists began singing their praise and the press kudos and excitement CONTINUES to build.


You’d need dental samples and a full DNA work up to prove these five songs by Fire On Fire have any connection to the sprawling psychedelia of Cerberus Shoal. These former Berklee students have flushed the acid down the bog and traded in their electric instruments for an assortment of banjos, dobros, doumbeks and ouds to update the Depression-era, hard-times acoustic moan of the Carter family. Gathering steam as it lumbers down an abandoned logging trail, “Amnesia” (with its wheezing accordion, eerie harmonica and booming upright bass) showcases the strident-yet appealing vocals of Colleen Kinsella, whose mountain-goat bleat on the tune’s outro is strong enough to curdle buttermilk. Jud Cost /Magnet Winter 08

Fire on Fire are the acoustic reincarnation of the Maine-based post-rock group Cerberus Shoal, who holed up for a few years and have returned de-electrified. Their first release under the new moniker is a self-titled EP on Young God; not only is it only available on tour or directly through the label’s website, but the packaging is handmade– printed on vellum and torn card stock and assembled by the band members themselves– which reflects their new musical approach. “Hangman”, the EP’s opening track and therefore our introduction to the new them, begins with a lone acoustic guitar, plucking out a down-home melody that is eventually overtaken by what sounds like the entire band singing “LALALALALALA” in the highest register possible. It’s a disarming noise that initially sounds self-conscious in its eccentricity, but this vocal theme grows more ebullient as it becomes more familiar. Similarly, “Hangman”, while lyrically dark, is ultimately humane: “Even the worst of man has friends,” the collective sing. “Even the hangman has friends.” Stephen Deusner/ 2/7/08

Fire on Fire is, as their name suggests, a duality wrapped in a singularity, a paradox that somehow bears ramshackle cohesion through its own contradictions. It’s the sound of the American soil: gritty, coarse, uncouth, and consummately impolite. It’s as if the band members were raised by wolves amidst the oak pillars of Maine, admiring the villagers’ harvest dance from afar but never truly understanding their steps. This is folk music made by folks who never claimed to live amongst the people. The compositions, however, are expertly played – guitars, banjos, bass fiddles, panpipes, hand percussion, ouds, shakers, dobros, and accordions are stitched together with such derelict joy that you can’t help the urge to howl too. Tyler McWilliams/ 2/21/08

Fire On Fire moves with hard plectrum and steel string steps through full lunged pastoral hymns. The internal furnace that stoked Ian and Sylvia and early Fairport Convention burns inside this South Portland, Maine addition to the ever excellent Young God Records stable. Pulled from the binding folds of wrinkled skin and mud holes, FOF roll like a modern day Carter Family with exotic instrumentation (oud, zampogna, tamburizta) poking the banjo, acoustic guitar and upright bass you might expect. Just when you’ve settled into their backwoods quiver, “Amnesia” arrives and throws any preconceptions out the window with its Kate-Bush-on-nitrous shockwave. Neither dour nor baldly exuberant, this five-song introductory EP (available directly from Young God or at shows) nails a very intriguing treatise to our collective church door. I suggest we hear what they have to say in full before converting but I’ll be damned if I won’t light a candle to this one right away. Dennis Cook/ 2/19/08

When Cerberus Shoal ditched their electric instruments, went into hiding, and emerged with acoustic guitars and banjos and stand-up basses, they eventually became known as Fire on Fire. And with their debut EP-released exclusively on the Young God Records website or at shows-they announce themselves with authority. The five lively tracks are spacious and energetic. They course with life, all full of the clang and warble of old school Americana, and a crazed collective joy as the whole band harmonizes nearly all the way through the disc. Along with the traditional instruments, you can hear oud and doumbek and tamboritza and dobro and the kitchen sink somewhere in there, making their sound too off-kilter to be called something as reductive as “folk” or “roots”. The band can foot-stomp through the insistent pining of “Hangman” or “Amnesia”, or they can pull back into a beautiful, but still raspy, wilt on “Liberty Unknown”. The five songs here-clocking in at over 30 minutes-show Fire on Fire have a lot of sides, but most important is the sense that they’re not playing to anyone on 5 Song EP. The band isn’t performing.  Here, the band and the audience seem to be one in the same.  And the audience never sounded so good. Mike Fiander/ 2/13/08

Five-piece Americana outfit Fire on Fire is borne from the ashes of psych-prog-punk collective Cerberus Shoal, whose former members have abandoned their electric instruments for banjos, mandolins, and acoustic guitars. This debut EP, released via Young God Records, is long on the folk and short on the freakish tendencies that have characterized some of the label’s other bands. Cerberus Shoal thrived on an unpredictable, everything-but-thekitchen-sink approach; Fire on Fire relies on a straightforward brand of front-porch Americana.

The album works because of its sincerity. listening, one feels like they decided to retreat from the modern world, and this acoustic music happened as a byproduct. Opener “Hangman” starts with a fingerpicking progression, followed by a warbly but harmonious blast of high-pitched vocals and mandolin. “My Lady Coffin” sounds like a long-lost Appalachian hiking song, and closer “Three or More” is a slow-moving, banjo-driven epic.

At the same time, this is no Woody Guthrie folk album. Strange noises-via accordions, harmoniums, and the members’ distinct voices-abound, adding modern experiments to an old-time vibe. It’s a promising debut of soulful tunes, rooted deep in the history of traditional American music.-David Hudnall/ 2/11/08

Michael Gira’s Young God label is home to several acts that plow their furrows in the rich fields of Americana, most notably his own Angels Of Light and Akron/Family. To This roll call can be added Fire On Fire. The act
emerged out of art-punk prog act Cerberus Shoal. However, in time honored fashion, they holed up in a house in Maine with only acoustic instruments and reinvented themselves as avatars of the Great Universal American Music.
Mandolins twinkle on “My Lady Coffin” as the group chorus “The sun’s gone out, the sky is falling / The moon is sinking, and the men are crawling” at a pace that suggests a twilight trudge back from a hard day’s toil in the
fields. On “Hangman”, the banjos and dobros duel as a man and a woman duet that “even the hangman has friends”. The subjects may be bitter, but the songs are joyous and warm. The EP sets high expectations for this spring’s
album. The Wire

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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