- A rumination on existence through the lens of jazz fusion, ambient and black metal.
- Sometimes you hear something that blows your mind. Fire-Toolz, the best-known project from Chicago artist Angel Marcloid, has been taking up space in my head since I first came across her records a few years ago. If you're unfamiliar, here's a crash course: impossibly dextrous jazz fusion with black metal passages, throat-shredding vocals and gorgeous downtempo interludes, partly inspired by the chrome finish and woozy stagger of vaporwave.
As Fire-Toolz, Marcloid tends to emphasize the black metal elements, but her new LP, Eternal Home, pulls all her styles together into one hyperactive magnum opus split across four parts. It's a dizzying listen with soaring crescendoes, pockets of New Age zen and one-woman-band chops that could make Chick Corea's Return To Forever blush.
Eternal Home blares into life with a classic Fire-Toolz move: jazz fusion played at a nearly inhuman pace, followed by an explosion of black metal and then, surprisingly, a wistful saxophone solo (one of the few instruments not played by Marcloid herself). It's abrasive, unsettling and gorgeous all at once, kicking off an album that takes a left turn at every fork in the road. On this first side alone there's "Odd Cat Sanctuary," which sounds like a Steely Dan homage until it becomes an earnest post-rock anthem that ranks among the prettiest and most inspiring passages that Marcloid has ever recorded. (That I've heard, anyways—she's released a lot of music.)
"The album is what settled in the sink after I wrung myself dry," Marcloid says in the liner notes. Indeed, Eternal Home feels like an exorcism. Where past releases may have come off flamboyant, this one is cathartic. The sudden grindcore passage on ""Lellow< "Birbs<" is breathtaking, before the track settles into one of the LP's most chilled-out sections. Those cybergrind drums emerge again on "Rubber Band Wrist," and then transform into classic rock riffage.
Elsewhere, Marcloid touches on glitch-hop ("Advaita §huffling") and Far Side Virtual-style vaporwave complete with synth sitar ("Window 2 Window 2 Window 2 Window"). "Shenpa Indicator Light!!!" features some truly remarkable guitar playing, while "(e)y(e)s w/o a %brain%" is one of the LP's most velveteen ambient escape hatches. In its way, Eternal Home is like the archetypal sprawling double-LP on a micro scale. Where other artists change genres or styles between songs, Marcloid does it in mere seconds, over and over again.
Though Eternal Home is lengthy, around 78 minutes, the constant pivots and zig-zags are riveting. As if the album wasn't information overload enough, the words, mostly unintelligible at first, are also loaded with meaning. There's a partial lyric sheet on the Hausu Mountain website that you can see for free. The lyrics are pithy, philosophical and often funny, sometimes immediately after they're profound and heart-wrenching. One of my favourite passages comes on the opening track, "In The Pinewaves." "The oscillation / I hear it tones muscles / Bullshit! / I'm owed strength now / I just won't work / Make me face it." Both defeated and hopeful, the words match the frantic array of emotions in the ever-changing music.
Eternal Home is meant as a meditation on being and belonging. The title refers to our everyday existence, the idea that we belong exactly where we are, and our existence is home. The way the LP rifles through styles from Marcloid's other projects, like Nonlocal Forecast and Mindspring Memories, feels like an ultimate statement of identity, an intense soul-baring across four dense suites. Her strange and once shocking mix of styles now feels vital and imperative. In the past few years, Marcloid has created her own musical language, and on Eternal Home, she's mastered it.
Eternal Home is by no means an easy listen, especially for people who aren't used to extreme metal vocals. But it's well worth the effort—the LP features some of the most beautiful music I've heard all year. (For those allergic to screeches and screams, there's an instrumental version coming next month.) In an American electronic music scene that feels increasingly syncretic, where metal, noise, jazz and techno collide like atoms converging into new molecules, Marcloid stands apart, conjuring a universe as Day-Glo, manic depressive and unpredictable as life itself.
01. ≈ In The Pinewaves ≈
02. guardian angel bear
03. Odd Cat Sanctuary
04. Yearning = Alchemical Fire
05. Shenpa Indicator Light!!!
06. --> ¶rogressive --> ¶ath -->
07. Umbilical Cord Blood
08. Lellow< "Birbs<
10. Яubber Band ￦rist
11. [ Maternal ♥ Havening ]
12. (e)y(e)s w/o a %brain%
13. To Make Home, Be Home
15. Where On EARTH Is My Sacchidānanda?
16. Advaita §huffling
17. Window 2 Window 2 Window 2 Window
18. Awakening™ Fantasy II
19. Window 2 Window 2 Window 2 Window 2 WIndow
20. I Am A Cloud
21. This Particular Universe Is Friendly ;)
22. Outside =^..^= Bears
23. |ØFF| 2 Łos† Vagus
24. To Make Whole, Be Whole
25. World Of Objects, Minus Fluids