All Of My Dreams Are Of This Place
Negative Gain Productions

FIRES’ All Of My Dreams Are Of This Place is a record deeply concerned with identity. Written and produced by Aedra Oh as a direct follow-up to the project’s debut Red Goes Grey, it’s an album informed by the emotions surrounding major events in her life: the uncertainty leading up to the birth of her first child, and the intense self-examination that preceded the beginnings of her gender transition. Inasmuch as it’s a personal diary of those thoughts and feelings, it’s also a record that tries to universalize those emotions. Whether or not you’ve been where Oh has, All Of My Dreams wants more than anything for you to understand and inhabit the feelings that birthed it.

That mission is served by the actual musical elements of the album. Where Red Goes Grey was a catchy, studio-smart electronic rock record that tapped into synthwave and glitch aesthetics, FIRES is now almost a full-bore alt-rock outfit, albeit one rendered from emo and a healthy amount of synthesis and sequencing. It’s a potent hybrid, as evidenced by opener “Show Me Life”, where Aedra takes account of several years of her life over tightly programmed electronics before a massive wave of guitars hit on the chorus. It doesn’t sound that far off from many of FIRES admitted post-hardcore influences in terms of melody or structure, but the very specific way that electronics are used as a bassline on the churning, triumphant singalong “Through Black Skies” or to reinforce the melody on “Inside Her Lungs” keep a connection to the project’s roots in industrial-rock.

Some of the contrast of the record comes from how certain the record feels musically, and how plaintive and precarious Oh sounds in delivering her vocals. When she sings the chorus to “Show Me Life” or spits out the staccato lyrics (complete with shrieks for emphasis) on “Revive” you can hear the doubt. The use of vocal processing as a production element factors into it as well; Oh’s voice is often obscured by aggressive auto-tune and glitch effects, to set up cathartic release via cleanly sung and shouted passages.

Ultimately though, it’s the emotional impact of All Of My Dreams Are Of This Place that makes the greatest impression. Without dismissing the advances in craft and studio technique that brought FIRES here, it’s the way that Aedra Oh offers herself up emotionally that make FIRES remarkable. You may have never felt what she was feeling when she wrote the piano-led ballad “Ever” about the experience of becoming a parent, or had the moment of clarity she expresses on “The Bright and Terrible” when she sings “The girl you always were / Was the girl I want to be”, but she expresses each with such conviction it’s not hard to feel the songs and their intent. It’s certainly not the end of any particular journey for FIRES, but it is something of an arrival.

Buy it.