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Fire-Toolz’s brave and beautiful overstimulation

Saturday, February 15, Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9 p.m., free. Info

Photo by Lyndon French.

The music of Fire-Toolz should force just about any listener to question their preconceptions and reference points: Producer/vocalist Angel Marcloid combines glimmering, immersive synths with bursts of rasping black-metal-like vocals, unabashedly stratospheric guitar solos, track titles that require a fluid grasp of dingbats and Unicode, and a visual aesthetic drawn directly from the early glory days of home desktop computing. It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss this music as just another exercise in trendy hyper-referential overload. Let yourself slip onto Marcloid’s wavelength on releases like last year’s Field Whispers (Into The Crystal Palace) and 2018’s Skinless X-1, and pretty soon a remarkably clear vision emerges from beneath the chaotic surface. 

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A sponsor display for The Sessions at McPike Park.

The screamed vocal outbursts of “✓ BEiNG,” from Field Whispers, crash over luxuriant, liquid spirals of guitar and grandiose percussion, at times recalling the fusion-y death metal of the great Florida band Cynic. That comparison aside, Marcloid’s hybrids are wholly her own, pulling together disparate strands with inspired confidence and production that feels as polished as it does instinctive. The fact that the video for “✓ BEiNG” rockets me back to being jealous of my friend’s really cool screen saver in the early ’90s doesn’t make the impact any less powerful or sincere. There’s a real generosity to Marcloid’s musical and visual universe, and the more you surrender to it the easier it is to let go of whatever you thought you knew about kitsch or about which sorts of sounds should go together.

Between the prog-like climaxes, Fire-Toolz invests just as much careful attention into works of prolonged, reflective calm. Marcloid delivers quite a few of those on Skinless X-1, including “In The Computer Room @ Dusk ☕” and “Upper Peninsula ②⓪①⑧.” These tracks go beyond the great firewalls of internet culture and New Age music to find something gentle and brave. At this free Rathskeller show, we can look forward to sounds and projections that rattle our brains a bit but also help us open up to Marcloid’s expansive emotional range.

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