After two albums and seven years off, Austin duo Fires Were Shot have released a new album each year for the past three years, marking their second phase as more prolific than their first. 2012’s Maritime was a single-track, 28-minute drone, while Pieces of the White Sun is a collection of drone-influenced folk rock pieces. The acoustic guitar is more noticeable through the reverb, while the form of these eleven pieces is more settled. And yet, as if to counteract this succinctness, Fires Were Shot infuses this new set with sonic nostalgia, recording these pieces onto a 4-track cassette player and including their very first song, a recovered echo from the 20th century. Past and present become intermingled; the two temporal phases meet in the middle. Even without knowing the duo’s trajectory, one can intuit a wistful yearning for simpler times, combined with gratitude for life’s current fullness.
While the diffused ambience of prior works is present in abundance on this tape, other tones poke through as well. Perhaps the most welcome of these is a restrained joy, first found in the uplifting timbres of “In the Heavens Meadow”. On this piece, the duo’s typical reflectiveness is replaced by happy abandon. This is the sort of song that might accompany the birth of a child, or a spiritual awakening. “Ain’t That Life” continues this theme, although a few dark notes enter like passing clouds; “Long Match” adds a happy beat.
The closing tracks on each side, “When Friday Won” and “Thursday Lost”, seem to be offered as a pair (and together would form a fine post-rock title). Each track is based upon a recurrent theme, but while the former is languid, the latter is ebullient, as if in defiance of their titles. “Thursday Lost” is simultaneously fuzzy and crisp, like a stuffed animal with glass eyes. As this final piece shifts to an stuttered electro-acoustic finale, one wonders if the duo is preparing yet another shift of their own; perhaps we’ll find out in 2014. (Richard Allen)