This second EP by alternative rock duo Fires is possibly one of the finest sounding self-released discs you’ll ever hear. Producer J. Robbins (noted for his performances with Jawbox and hardcore punks Government Issue and production work with post-punk/alternative bands Jets To Brazil and Jawbreaker) brings out the absolute best in this band during every second of these five performances. With a sound worthy of any major label release, the guitars are ringing and sharp, while the bass has an almost equal share in the end mix, adding a meaty bottom end. Put simply, there is nothing about this release you’d ever guess was DIY.
Of course, it takes more than a good producer/engineer to create an enjoyable record, and luckily, Fires’ material has the balls to match. They not only have the weight behind their arrangements, but also a great sense of atmosphere and melody lurking within. Listening to the angular rhythms of ‘Sent’, it’s hard not to think of so many great nineties alternative records, but in 2012, Fires’ approach sounds more than a mere throwback – they manage to make their brand of post-hardcore sound vital. The bass takes the lead with a big sound and during the chorus sections, the guitars have an equally full presence and the use of occasional ringing leads adds a flourish that’s unfussy, but ultimately necessary. Danny Nicolletto’s vocals may be an acquired taste for some; his lead voice is rather high – slightly reminiscent of those from cult alternative band Tubelord – but it’s a style which works for him and a style which suits this particular track well. ‘Execute’ is much harder musically, with slightly discordant guitar chords providing the intro. Once the rest of the instruments pull together for the chorus, things appear more settled. Overall, a hugely energised three minutes, made even better by James Scott’s immense bass sound during the second verse.
‘Blackout’ and ‘Blood on Black’ both highlight more alternative rock chops (both enjoyable and superbly played), but it’s ‘Amour’ which stands alongside ‘Sent’ as this EPs most striking tune. Showcasing Fires’ softer side, the guitars settle into a simple tune constructed of clean toned notes – the kind favoured by Slint, usually before throwing themselves headlong into a world of sludge – while the vocals and understated drumming conjure up a somewhat ghostly atmosphere. The louder sections allow room for another warm bass part, and although you’ll undoubtedly expect it all to somehow reach that seemingly inevitable noisy climax, against the odds, it never does. While it could be seen as a dramatic shift from Fires’ usual sounds, it’s no less enjoyable once you tune in.
The excitement and sheer class delivered by ‘Echo Sounds’ is almost equal to Jawbox’s 1996 self-titled disc and Sense Field’s ‘Killed For Less’ and ‘Building’ releases – three discs from which Fires appear to pull influence without ever sounding like clones. It may be short, but it’s a disc not to be missed.