Christopher McFall
Four Feels for Fire
CD (E42)

Christopher McFall is a Kansas City-based composer.
He works with field recordings and analogue tape,
whereby the latter is physically treated prior to being
processed on a computer. Four Feels for Fire was
composed during the summer of 2006, and represents
the seemingly endless heat, grit and turbulence that
is typical of that season in the mid-western States.

See also
EARLabs 3 (E63)

Out of print

“The work as a whole… has an almost spiritual undertow
thwarting any quantification in spatial terms (or in any
terms whatsoever)”


Four Feels for Fire is forged from the ambience of the
industrial heartlands of Kansas, Missouri. In the sleeve-
notes, McFall hints at the “lost functionality” of the area,
lending it an almost Ballardian feel of redundancy and
disuse. Using field recordings from this area, McFall has
perhaps unwittingly revitalised the essence of his surround-
ings, reconstituting its inner workings to formulate a
surreal poetry of decay. Fusing these works with analogue
tape manipulation, [he] has conjured an alternative world
of dense and epic proportions, rangey tracts that quake
and rumble and then slide away, leaving only dust and
mercurial minutiae seething and sizzling like water on
hot metal. Oblique and ‘up close’ scrapings and scratchings
once again remind us of the industrial source material,
and the subtle clankings of machinery become the backdrop
for sharply focussed tonality and rich reverberant sub bass.
Absolutely brilliant.

Baz Nichols at White_Line

The results are striking — very precise in their purpose,
which is to emulate the ‘endless heat, grit and turbulence’
of a summer in Kansas, but also highly inventive and
obliquely suggestive in their sound photography. The
sense of gradual disintegration, of the materials that once
constituted a city reverting bit by bit to their natural state,
is palpable. Not a lot happens, and when it does so very
slowly, yet this album offers immediate rewards.

Excerpt from a review by David Stubbs in The Wire

This must be one of the most impenetrable albums that
I’ve heard recently. After five tries, though, I feel able to
pronounce its quality as superior, yet a proper description
still eludes me. In between the various acknowledgements
we find Miguel Tolosa, Jos Smolders and Asher Thal-Nir.
But there is nothing really associable to those artists in terms
of sonority; on a purely conceptual level, a comparison could
be made with Marc Behrens’ recent Architectural commentaries
4&5 on this very label. Still, Four Feels for Fire is obscure,
muddy in a way, analog-sounding, often subaqueous in its
‘no-light-at-all’ character. It all starts from processed tapes
of course, but what’s on them seem to perennially revolve
around a poetic of no escape, like in a world populated by
hunched entities born to perform their one and only task,
lacking any ambition to look for a better future. An aesthetically
uninviting mixture of hissing interferences, groaning parabolas,
urban malaise and gliding sonic slime that works wonders as
a complement to the uncertainties of our own rationality,
a swamp that we can easily fall and drown into without no one
caring, bordering on an engrossing nocturnal landscape which
no human has been able to see until now.

Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes

In his list of ‘thank you’s’, McFall mentions Asher Thal-Nir and
that’s not a bad point of reference. Like Asher, McFall culls
essences from his tapes and tends to isolate quasi-tonal drones
from among the sounds over which other elements, sometimes
recognisable, more often not, mingle. During the third and longest
of the five tracks, the mix is especially mysterious, most of the
sounds almost recognisable including perhaps even flames.
He might not achieve quite the poetic level that Olivia Block
manages to do with some regularity, but McFall’s in the same
ballpark here. Four Feels for Fire, calmly laying out its very wide,
rich sonic palette, is a solid addition to the ranks of enhanced

Brian Olewnick at Bagatellen

Although it could seem an impossible enterprise to try to retract
the initial ‘macroscopic’ aspects from this resultant composition,
the attempt is nonetheless worthwhile. I would in fact posit that
such an interpretative activity — either on a conscious or on an
unconscious level — is inevitable and inescapable for an integral
aesthetic apprehension of these works to occur. In this work
a passage is mounted between that unsurpassable chasm dividing
the interior and exterior realities, that in this case form two
indivisible sides of the same coin. Not the chasm itself is the start-
ing point for the artist’s compositional activity, but I believe that
this is really an attempt at attaining an integrated perspective on
the dual nature of the experiences that are here represented.
  ...Like [a] revelation, the buildings, sites and events that were
recorded, rematerialise in these sonifications as a passway into
a domain where the previously lifeless space now reappears as
infested with the trails and markings of yet unnamed, undetermined,
all-encompassing and all-enveloping spirit winds that blow here.

Excerpts from a review By Mark Paauwe at Earlabs