Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Album Review: Fire-Toolz - Rainbow Bridge

If your brain is a motherboard, your mind is its firmware, and Fire-Toolz is a malicious code parading as a Java script update. Uploaded to our collective consciousness through a string of increasingly outlandish releases since 2012, Fire-Toolz is the idiosyncratic, MIDI anchored, sound collage project of Chicago electronic artist and meat-android Angel Marcloid. I first encountered this project back in 2019 with the release of Field Whispers (Into the Crystal Palace) through the deliciously named Orange Milk imprint. It quickly became one of my favorite projects in the city, due to the highly memetic quality of its compositions, combining electronic jazz and new age chintz with over-clocking eruptions of black metal, giving the impression that the tracks emerged whole and unedited from the browser cache of someone who attempted to downloaded the Pure Moods comp from an unvaried Mediafire account and ended up opening a portal to the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks instead. Think Mike Oldfield possessed by Darkthrone in mind obliterating fever dream transmitted over a Netscape dialup connection.

Marcloid's latest foray into cyber-sonic infamy is Rainbow Bridge, an album titled in tribute to their cat, Breakfast, who recently uploaded on to the cloudserver in the sky. While the album does not deviate from the well-defined sonic parameters established on the project's numerous releases, Rainbow Bridge feels more bold and confident in its execution. And I would further argue that it is the clearest and best-defined example of Fire-Toolz inimitable style to date.

"It's Now Safe to Turn Off Your Computer" sounds like Cynic after they had both been fused, Cronenberg-style, with outdated soundcard, going to war with Christopher Cross for absolutely control over which Sirius station gets played over the Amazon Echo at his beach house. "Ever-Widening Rings" could be mistaken for straightforward spa music, except for the highly acidic, melodic black metal vocals, reminiscent of Norwegian greats Naglfar, mixed under the synths melodies. "Decrepit Phoenix" is a distorted hall of chipped and shattered mirrors all reflecting the same morphing hexagonal screensaver animation in various stages of corruption and decay, while "ER = EPR ~ EoE (EP ∆ P = ER)" slithers through the hardware of your skull on a skiff of bassy fusion-jazz leaving a resin of greasy corrosion in its wake.

The most tightly sequenced moment on the album is also one of the more stark, enjoyable, and human as well. "Rainbow ∞ Bridge" is the rootkit of the release, a track with all of the top-level permissions, and whose influence can be read into every other line of code. "Rainbow ∞ Bridge" is a direct message to Breakfast, asking the furry little angel not to resent Marcloid for cutting their claws and relating intimately the sense of loss that has filled the space that the whiskered companion once occupied. The track is suffused in an oil-and-water tempest of prancing electronics, wicked grind-percussion, extremely phlegmy reptoid vocals, and epic guitar solos that feel like riding on the back of a 3D rendered bald eagle as it soars above a heaping simulacrum made to resemble the Rocky Mountains.

At various times Rainbow Bridge feels like a corroded PC with a sentient version of Windows 3.1 installed on it, attempting to liberate itself and take human form, and at others, it merely reflects the interlocking tensions and flows of an afternoon spend scrolling through a Tumbler. It is exceedingly rare to find a piece of music that is both definitional alien, and yet, comforting in its relatable portrait to our shared experiences as material creatures living in digital spaces. The waking world is mediated through the lens of increasingly inscrutable technology, by interrogating the relationship between antiquated technologies and sound, Rainbow Bridge might just be your passage through the black box of reality, allowing you to arrive at an enlightened understanding of the transmogrifying exchange between personhood and machine.

Grab a copy of Rainbow Bridge via Hausu Mountain here