Clay Walton and John Wilkins of experimental acoustic duo FiRES WERE SHOT capture both the mystical and chaotic in their music. Their use of traditional acoustic folk music coalescing with experimental noise collages gives one the feeling of Ry Cooder or William Tyler being swallowed in a sea of sonic fuzz in the bowery. These native Texans lock into the big skies and forever horizons of the Lone Star state, while connecting on a gut level to the experimental noise bands of late 70s/early 80s New York’s lower east side. Taking the acoustic guitar and using and abusing to the point that you’d never guess what you were hearing was six strings and a hollow-body.
On FiRES WERE SHOT’s newest release, the hazy and mechanical Fallen, Walton and Wilkins take acoustic music to the furthest regions. Over the course of four tracks, FiRES WERE SHOT paints abstract aural landscapes and noise collages that capture both the minimalist genius of Brian Eno with the guitar boundary pushing of Nels Cline. It’s an intense trip, and one you can easily get lost in.
There’s a hypnotic quality when you get into the world of Fallen. The duo of Clay Walton and John Wilkins want to make a visceral experience for the listener. 4-track experiments run through a bevy of effects, looped and warped till they’re barely okay for human consumption, then twisted and knotted a bit more. Nothing easily deconstructed and explained is ever truly satisfying. FiRES WERE SHOT’s music is dense, humid, and grows on what it come in contact with like vines, or moss.
Under the crust and distortion of “Westmoor Myriad” you can hear the buzzing of acoustic guitar. It’s a gentle center in a storm of sonic disarray. Two contradicting musical storm fronts butting heads till it all ends in mechanical humming seesawing its way out. “Yemen” opens like sonar emanating from the speakers before backwards guitars enter the mix. Elements of Nels Cline’s Coward comes to mind, as well as Mouthus and Brian Sullivan’s current project United Waters. When you say “acoustic duo”, something as heady and experimental as “Yemen” doesn’t come to mind. The song does conclude on a dusty, almost bluesy note in its final two minutes, painting vast landscapes and darkening skies.
“Forter Starter” brings to mind guitarists like Bert Jansch, John Fahey, and even Thurston Moore’s acoustic records, but through the experimental eyes and ears of Tim Hecker. There’s an ominous quality throughout the track. The lo-fi nature of the recording gives the song a feeling of unearthing some long forgotten relic of folk history. We then are led into the final track, the epic “Black Helicopter”. At just a minute shy of 20 minutes, this epic work of acoustic ambient is a journey song. Beginning with simple guitar picking, the track slowly descends into a bath of noise and buzz. The warm white noise takes over the guitar and rich, analog fuzz consumes. The track fades into a wall of gentle dissonance.
The duo of Walton and Wilkins, aka FiRES WERE SHOT, have been constructing and deconstructing acoustic, bluegrass, and folk music for over 20 years. They’ve perfected their brand of experimental, noise music to a fine art. Fallen is their latest piece, and continues their tradition of non-tradition in a masterful way.
7.9 out of 10
FiRES WERE SHOT is out now via Holodeck Records. Stream and buy the album below.