Review: Set Self On Fire – To Bathe In Embers

Set Self On Fire - To Bathe In EmbersWhat better way to protest against worldly malice than to channel it? In a society that uses stiff, structural obedience to fend off the constant waves of bullshit, the ultimate act of defiance is to let the body fall slack; to be the loose brick in the barricade of ignorant civility, surrendering oneself to the tides of malevolence. This isn’t improvisation as personal expression, but improvisation as unconditional porosity – a channel through which the world outside is amplified as percussive seizure, wordless lament and storms of resampling. Everything is loudly, dissonantly fucked.

To Bathe In Embers is a turbulent thing. Trains of thought collide head-on (Rhodes-driven jazz and desolate electronic waste, skittering beats and trumpet dawn chorus), abandoning the civil back-and-forth of conversation. Occasionally, the whole scene is consumed by gigantic winds of reverb and unidentifiable residue, with cymbals and brass protruding like limbs flailing out of the panic. The commotion is constant. Set Self On Fire don’t stop to recalibrate themselves. Like a fly writhing in a spider’s web, the constant thrashing and wailing only exacerbates the problem – shrill synthesisers wriggle through the gaps between shivering rimshot and warped TV broadcast, becoming wedged in position as the hole promptly clogs up with a further stream of organs and voices.

There are glimmers of co-operation and mutual accommodation if I strain to hear them. The opening of “Stop. Drop. Burn.” is spacious enough that I can hear the little twitches of reaction and acknowledgement. Voices sigh in fragment conversation with bleating static, while guitars moan with fatigue as lasers gently attempt to wake them. I cling to these tiny drops of civility, because predominantly this is an exercise in bulldozing eachother; a clamour of brutish gestures and theatrical self-righteousness, with each instrument doing everything and anything to clamber to the top of the pile.

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