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Fire-Toolz - Rainbow Bridge Music Album Reviews

On her third LP for Hausu Mountain, the Chicago experimental musician amps up the extremes of her work: It’s more crushing than ever, yet it features moments as tranquil as anything in her catalog.

The music that the Chicago experimenter Angel Marcloid makes as Fire-Toolz exists somewhere at the fuzzy border between peace and pandemonium. Across the handful of albums she’s released under that name over the last half-decade, she’s made room for moments of blissed-out digital ambience, technical death-metal fantasias, glitch-scoured noise, and glossy AM radio jazz—often all slammed together within a few bars. It can feel like mayhem, but Marcloid insists her songwriting has never been self-consciously designed that way. She told AllMusic that over the last few years, her music has emerged from “a much more peaceful place,” even if it comes out gnarled and complex. “I might be making something about a serene meadow, but […] to someone who just listens to it, it might shatter their world temporarily,” she says. “That’s just how it’s going to have to be.”
On Rainbow Bridge, her third Fire-Toolz album for Chicago’s Hausu Mountain, she maintains this head-spinning approach, doubling down on the extremes of her music. It’s somehow more crushing and complex than anything she’s done as under the moniker, but it’s also full of moments as tranquil and bright as anything she’s offered in her catalog. It’s a strange balance, but it’s true to the spirit of the Fire-Toolz project as a whole, which is full of pieces that feel like they’re being torn apart as Marcloid’s impulses go galloping off in different directions.
The record begins in tumult with the double-kick battery of the concussive, minute-long “Gnosis .•o°Ozing.” It is bleak, bruising, and brief, but it also contains a few glimmers of an ascendant synth lead, which lends even this short, violent intro a surprising emotional complexity; there’s a sort of hopefulness embedded in its punishment. On “(((Ever-Widening Rings)))” she unleashes a series of terrifying screams over a shuffling synth piece that sounds not entirely unlike a Peter Gabriel instrumental. Marcloid has said that her fascination with metal began with proggy groups like Dream Theater and Fates Warning, bands that were more about world-building than brutality. The heavier moments on Rainbow Bridge seem designed with the same purpose in mind. They may be more transparently metal than anything Marcloid has done to date, but she’s not just trying to pummel you, she’s presenting complicated emotions for a complicated world. It’s a careful, considered exploration of a vein that’s run through her music from the very beginning.

The slower moments of Rainbow Bridge are no less engaging. Tracks like “Dreamy #ex Code” evoke both the dizzy mysticism of new-age music and the burpy psychedelia of Animal Collective’s early collage experiments, while others draw on the humid jazz riffing that informed Marcloid’s record as Nonlocal Forecast. Even if any given moment is crammed with sounds, the record gives a lot of space to the serenity that she says informs her work. The record’s closer, “{Screamographic Memory}” is perhaps the most purely placid thing in her catalog: a collection of bell-like synth tones stretching and seeping into one another. It’s sweet and sunny, about as far from the thunderous terror that opens the record as you could imagine getting.

Rainbow Bridge was made in part as a reflection on the death of Marcloid’s cat Breakfast, which explains in part the way the record swings back and forth between beauty and cacophony. Marcloid’s work as Fire-Toolz has always been about the way that these two emotional poles can coexist, but the way we deal with death is especially complicated. Even the most intense grief is braided with moments of peace and clarity, the beautiful memories of a life well-lived. Rainbow Bridge mirrors the intensity and the confusion of these experiences and shows that even in the direst times, it’s possible to find comfort.

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