Vlor – A Fire Is Meant For Burning

A Fire Is Meant For Burning

Vlor began almost 15 years ago, when Brian John Mitchell and Russell Halasz began experimenting with natural reverbs, as they couldn’t afford electronic equipment to create the same effects. (Perhaps the money would have flowed a bit more easily if they hadn’t spent their time messing around with reverbs and experimental guitar, but who am I to make such speculations?) By 1998, Vlor had a few releases under their belt, but ultimately folded when Halasz relocated. Fast forward to last year, when Vlor was resurrected in a fit of nostalgia, its corpse dusted off and straightened out. Mitchell invited six of his friends to dress it up real nice, adding whatever they saw fit to make Vlor into a presentable zombie. Now, dressed handsomely and with what’s left of its hair slicked back, A Fire Is Meant For Burning staggers into the light.

For the Vlor redux, Mitchell enlisted the help of some fairly respectable names in the experimental guitar world, such as Jon DeRosa of Aarktica, Nathan Amundson of Rivulets, and members of Red Morning Chorus. After recording some initial riffs and arpeggios, Mitchell just mailed (or e-mailed) them around, each participant successively adding their contributions until Mitchell felt the track was complete. Interestingly, Halasz was not among those invited, or perhaps declined his invitation. Most of the collaborators added more ambient, droney guitar to the mix, but interspersed throughout are the occasional violin, keyboards, hand percussion and even some Indian instruments. No one song on the album contains all seven possible players, but most contain a healthy three or four, and others are an intimate two member trade-off.

So what were the results of such an experiment? It’s hard to say. Inconclusive? Not statistically significant? A Fire Is Meant For Burning is definitely in the upper tier of ambient guitar work, but it’s still a result that could have been accomplished by one person, as it often doesn’t raise its voice enough to make it apparent that six people are lending their guitar-strumming hands. Some tracks certainly work better than others, the most notable songs being “Wires” and “Horses in Deserts,” both of which build into subdued crescendos that have a lot more going on in them than the first listen betrays. Many of the other tracks don’t stand as solidly on their own, however, and because the album is so consistently low-key, it’s advisable to take it all at once, as it truly embodies the proverbial notion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

A Fire Is Meant For Burning is a solid ambient album, perfectly suited for a lazy morning or a night slipping away to approaching slumber. While it hardly seems like a seven person collaboration, perhaps that’s actually its strong point: these seven friends were aligned enough with a central vision of the project to keep everything to a dull roar. No one takes advantage of their freedom, and the music maintains a somnambulistic shuffle throughout. Still, such exercises in restraint are always a balancing act, and A Fire Is Meant For Burning can teeter dangerously at the brink of boredom. It’ll be interesting to see what Mitchell does with this project in the future. In the meantime, A Fire Is Meant For Burning is the perfect mental bubble bath to relax in while dreaming up your own all-star casts for a Vlor-type endeavor.