Multi-instrumental virtuoso Colin Fisher is a singular talent, and easily one of Toronto’s busiest musicians regardless of style. A mainstay of the improvised music world and a frequent collaborator to curious-eared pop artists like Caribou, Junior Boys, over the past decade, Fisher has also produced a varied and unclassifiable catalogue of solo recordings.

With Suns of the Hearthis sixth solo full-length, Fisher finds himself on the suitably eclectic We Are Busy Bodies, an imprint that has published everything from Kristen Roos’ much-touted Universal Synthesizer Interface records to numerous revered South African Jazz reissues. For them, he has crafted a record that speaks—eloquently so—to his wide-ranging abilities and proclivities, merging the various soundworlds he has conjured throughout his discography.

The 2018 cassette Garden of Unknowing he made for Manchester’s Tombed Visions, featured several iterations of himself sparring in full band improvisational exchanges using guitar, sax, drum kit, and synthesizer prompting the Quietus to hail it as “miraculous.”, praising his “utterly innate sense of musicality.” That same year’s LP V Le Pape (on Junior Boy Jeremy Greenspan’s Geej imprint) was a more textural affair, focusing on layered hot-wired guitar sonorities. Musicworks enthused of it “Fisher is always attentive to timbre and texture and mood, never veering into self-indulgence, even in the longest pieces, always responding—whether by deepening, nuancing, or undercutting—to the soundscape he has carefully developed.”

Like its meditative predecessor, 2021’s acclaimed Refections of the Invisible World  (Halocline Trance), Suns of the Heart centres heavily treated guitars, yet here Fisher takes that base somewhere else entirely. There’s no shortage of atmospheric repose with soft tones that swoop gently toward the listener, but Fisher’s overall vision here far more expansive than before, charting a dynamic and textural range that’s as vast as it is volatile and employ other sounds such as fretless and just intonation  guitars, bass, saxophone, tanbur and percussion. Its compositions are prismatic, offering listeners glimpses of Fisher as the fery soloist, the sensitive accompanist, the agile instrumentalist and the imaginative electronic colourist.

In order to help him realize these newfound sonic and formal ambitions, Fisher enlisted producer, electronic musician, and proprietor of the Halocline Trance imprint David Psutka—best known for his work as ACT!, Egyptrixx, Ceramic TL and under other aliases. Music Radar recently noted that “since arriving on the electronic scene in 2008, David Psutka has never been one to compromise. The Toronto-based producer has attempted to reconfigure club music with his brittle digital drones and phosphorous textures.”

Psutka not only recorded this album in his studio but also assisted Fisher in dis- and reassembling the loop-driven improvisational approach heard in his live performances and on some of his past albums. In partnering with Psutka to sculpt the material via re-sampling, and judicious arranging/ processing, Fisher has broadened the structural scope of his music, permitting more interplay and travel between (not to mention superimpositions) of varying densities and intensities.

Album opener and first single “Acts of Light” exemplifies the feel of the record, unfurling a windswept vista that Fisher probes

with yearning lead guitar figures. These lines escalate in urgency, culminating in a brief outburst of distorted chromaticism, however this bout of disquiet soon vanishes, leaving only delicate swaying ambiences punctuated by trickles of staccato. “Deus Absconditus” introduces a seething, effects-plastered guitar solo and as it repeatedly dissolves into enigmatic electric froth, slow resonant chordal figures and saxophone begin to converse with these sputters. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Fisher folds the brittle strumming of his tanbur into the mix. The lute’s rapid metallic attacks gradually assume the role of the splintered lead guitar from before, carrying the piece toward its conclusion. On “Luminous Light” Fisher and Psutka coax strobing percussion from the guitar and drum-like sonorities from saxophone feedback, producing a haunted matrix of pulse. As the friction between these rhythmic strata reaches a climax, a molten surge of guitars and shrieking saxophones bursts forth, enduring a slow, grueling unravelling that closes the piece.

At the outset of the album’s second side, the percussive throbs of the previous track seem to return, but on “Terra Lucidis” these palpitations cascade smoothly into warm modal harmonies, rather than instigating a torrent of charred noise. “Mundial Imaginalis,” is arguably the album’s most serene moment and frames Fisher’s tenor saxophone as a sort of narrator against a billowing twilight-hued scene of treated guitar. The spacious, chromatic arpeggiations that initiate the final cut, “Illuminato Matutina” almost evoke Morton Feldman, but the brassy microtonal swarms that sneak in around them bring a strange tension that soon gives way to other ingredients. There’s a mysterious faltering ostinato that provides a tenuous anchor for the harmonies. Fisher also furnishes various scurrying whispers around the periphery of the music. Eventually there’s an agile, sparkling cluster of interwoven melodies that illuminates the landscape, but soon this new light reveals another flock of sustained tones that ultimately swells to engulf the entire aural field.

Having shared the stage with the likes of Jaime Branch, Sabir Mateen, Joe McPhee, William Parker, Gerry Hemingway, Anthony Braxton, Laraaji, and Fred Frith, in recent years Colin Fisher has become a ubiquitous figure among North American improvised music circles–and rightly so. The skill and insight with which he approaches the guitar, saxophone, drums and numerous other instruments, are matched by his deft and vivid imagination for spontaneous composition.

Among his numerous collaborative endeavors, he has performed and recorded with Brandon Valdivia (AKA Mas Aya) as Not The Wind, Not The Flag for the past decade and half, infusing abstract psychedelia with the ecstatic abandon of free jazz. His 2019 Colin Fisher Quartet release Living Midnight features him on tenor sax alongside revered out-jazz players Marc Edwards, Brandon Lopez, and Daniel Carter. Meanwhile his partnership with American trio Many Arms on Suspended Defnition (Tzadik, 2014)prompted Spin’s Brad Cohan praise the group for “bolstering their already imposing lineup with gale-force blowing guest saxophonist Colin Fisher, thus blasting their outré sonic blitz into a fire-breathing free jazz otherworld.” Fisher later formed the trio Monas, with Many Arms’ bassist, Johnny DeBlase, and drummer Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever). He has also made two duo albums with eccentric Nova Scotian jaw harp innovator chik white released and teamed up with Foxy Digitalis’ Brad Rose and Catherine Sikora for the trio outing Recherche (Ramble Records). His various projects have seen release on premiere labels like Astral Spirits, Chocolate Monk, Cacophonous Revival, Tombed Visions, and Clean Feed’s Shhpuma subsidiary.

Fisher’s omnivorous listening habits also translate to an inquisitive outlook on music. This versatility can be witnessed on recent releases and performances by celebrated electronic outfits Caribou and Junior Boys. He has also contributed to recordings by Orange Milk Records alumnus Euglossine, guitar-wielding minimalist trailblazer Rhys Chatham, beloved songwriter Jennifer Castle, and prominent rock groups like Pup, the Constantines (Sub Pop), and Born Ruffans (Warp Records).

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