Pieces of the White Sun (2013)

“FiRES WERE SHOT puts some distance between itself and other ambient-drone practitioners in a number of ways. First of all, Austin, Texas-based John Wilkins and Clay Walton create their music using acoustic guitars and effects pedals, which results in a warm and crystalline sound that always feels natural—the omnipresent pluck and strum of the guitar serves as a constant reminder that humans hands are generating the sounds as opposed to machines. That aura of down-home intimacy is also abetted by the fact that the entire fifty-two-minute collection (available on cassette and as a digital download) was recorded using four-track cassette.

Even more critically, the duo’s fifth album, Pieces of the White Sun, encompasses a wider range of styles than one only. So while the opener “Before That Time” might slot itself within the ambient-drone genre, other pieces nudge the FiRES WERE SHOT sound into other areas. In that regard, the listener encounters pastoral folk settings lightly dusted with textural effects (“Scattered in the River,” “Now Showing an Orange Setting”) and the rustic folk-blues of “In the Heavens Meadow.” Often wistful and pretty, the eleven songs range between joy and sadness, with the slow-burn melancholy of “When Friday Won” a stark contrast to the bright, fingerpicking uplift of “Ain’t That Life.” All of the group’s strengths come home to roost in “Never To Return,” a short but nonetheless affecting blend of lilting folk patterns and atmospheres, and during the hypnotic, psych-dronescape “McElligot’s Pool.”

Wilkins and Walton aren’t guitar virtuosos necessarily, but, conceptually speaking, FiRES WERE SHOT isn’t about virtuoso display. Instead, the two focus on using the instrument in painterly fashion by weaving patterns, loops, and delay treatments into dense, oft-spellbinding reveries. At the same time, the two have certainly developed the requisite skills to make each piece’s intended effect a reality. Regardless of whether one comes away from the album thinking of Wilkins and Walton as ambient guitar players or as folk-electronic songsmiths, Pieces of the White Sun itself impresses as a thoroughly satisfying and engrossing outing by the duo.”

-Textura

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Maritime (2012)

“Of all the times, places, and ways to release an album, this may be the worst: just before SXSW, in Austin, in the digital format. This unusual hat trick comes across as a virtual cry for anonymity. And yet, fame doesn’t seem to be something John Wilkins and Clay Walton care about; after all, they spent seven years between recordings before returning with last year’s Awakened by a Lonely Feud. The problem here – and for once, it’s a good problem – is that this album is extremely worthy of attention, yet will need help to appear on radar.

Fires Were Shot has post-rock roots, but is no longer post-rock. The latest effort is a single track, half-hour drone. Don’t make the mistake of clicking Play, then skipping to different parts of the track. I made this mistake myself; but in so doing, I missed all of the elegance and grace. But once I played the whole thing through, I was hooked, and immediately started playing it again. I expect most drone fans will do the same.

Long tracks are often a challenge, because their contents need to justify their length. Maritime does so with bright chords, continual builds and some very convincing white noise. Fires Were Shot claims to be just a pair of guys with some acoustic guitars and reverb pedals, but there’s much more to the album than that: a spacious arrangement, an uplifting mood, a sense of measured control. Maritime is like a heart slowly opening, a seed slowly sprouting, a sun slowly rising: inevitable miracles that never fail to surprise. When the timbre changes in the seventeenth minute, the focus shifts from the overall mood to the specific actions of the players, and one becomes intensely aware that the music reflects careful choices and calm intention. It’s wonderful to find the duo back in action so soon, and sounding so seaworthy.”

-Richard Allen, A Closer Listen

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Awakened by a Lonely Feud (2011)

Quiet Design Records

“Awakened By a Lonely Feud is Austin, Texas-based duo FiRES WERE SHOT‘s third album, their first in seven years, and only their third in their thirteen-year career. Clay Walton and John Wilkins may have their reasons for taking so long between records, but whatever that may be, it only adds to the overall feeling that their music is a very special thing, something delicate, precious, and rare. Indeed, there are moments of delicate beauty to be found here—from the gentle chimes of “Feel Like Illinois” and the Robbie Basho styling of “Go On and Carried Out,” to the quiet Brian Eno-ish “Destined” and “Bombell.” These quieter moments are a further perfection of what was started on their 2004 album Solace, and are an even further step from their earlier, louder, post-rock days; a rare live appearance witnessed by this writer was one of the loudest shows he’d seen. Hopefully, it won’t take these fellows another six years between records; the world needs more beautiful, delicate music.”

-Joseph Kyle, The Big Takeover

Additional Press for Awakened by a Lonely Feud:

The Steinberg Principle
Fluid Radio
Textura
Chain D.L.K.

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Solace (2004)

Asphodel, Ltd.

“The best practitioners of ambient or drone music usually come from geographically open and big-skied places: Australia’s Roy Montgomery, Iceland’s Sigur Rós, and Texas’ Stars of the Lid. Fellow Texans (and Austin home-towners) Fires Were Shot are guitarists John Wilkins and Clay Walton. Unlike SOTL’s pedal-softened electric opuses, Fires Were Shot have a more acoustic and miniaturized approach to their music, though no less thoughtful or richly atmospheric. Indeed, they manage to layer an incredible amount of harmonic energy into their (mostly) under three-minute tracks; a firmament of analog tape hiss carries aloft slightly distorted drones atop of which crisp acoustic finger picked strings are free to ring and echo. The duo is careful not to over stack the elements and create a spacious rather than claustrophobic geography of their own.”

Exclaim! Canada’s Music Authority

Additional Press for Solace:

Splendid Magazine

Sputnik

Austin Chronicle

No Ripcord Magazine

All Music Guide

Avopolis

Musique Machine

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Form the Hearth (1998)

It’s Only Me Records

“Anthemic, gripping, beautiful guitar-tinted landscapes of melody and chord . . . self-released with no distribution or publicity, one of those great unknowns that just blows us away. Think of the most gentle, melodic James Plotkin guitar, combined with looped and spacious rhythm-scapes of a Rapoon/Dead Voices on Air origin. Simply amazing . . . an all around sleeper masterpiece.”

Manifold Records