Rainbow Bridge may be the name of Angel Marcloid’s latest record, but the phrase actually stretches back to the early days of the Chicago multi-instrumentalist’s career. Rainbow Bridge was also the name of Marcloid’s original—now retired—Bandcamp label, a genre-annihilating imprint that now feels like a preview for the multi-chromatic musical fusions she conducts as Fire-Toolz.
“I just thought it sounded it cool,” Marcloid says. “I’ve always loved bright colors and rainbows, anything colorful and whimsical. There are certain symbols I’m attracted to. I like passageways, portals, bridges, staircases, doorways, keyholes…as soon as I picked [Rainbow Bridge], I looked it up and noticed there were a few different explanations.”
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The most popular term she found symbolized “the rainbow bridge” as a passageway for pets to reconnect with their owners in the afterlife. It was an idea that stuck with Marcloid, an avid-pet owner whose cats, particularly her closest companion Breakfast, occasionally appear on Fire-Toolz tracks. Breakfast, who passed away in late 2018 and appears posthumously on Rainbow Bridge, plays a central role in the album’s themes.
“I’ve dealt with this before, but this time it just blew me wide open,” Marcloid says about Breakfast’s passing. “It really, really impacted my life, it’s still so fresh and important to me. Rainbow Bridge, the album, is one of the ways I’ve been able to talk about those things.”
Grief can be a deeply complicated feeling—an overwhelming fusion of love, sorrow, anger, and nostalgia. But it’s one Fire-Toolz seems uniquely capable of exploring. Songs on Rainbow Bridge incorporate smooth jazz fusion, black metal, video game music, new age and more, but they’re threaded together with such care and attention that they always feel organic. Though she used to find and shed monikers like a hermit crab, Marcloid tells me Fire-Toolz is different because it’s, “my best tool, my best outlet, the best reflection of what I say and feel and experience.” In using that outlet to explore her grief, Rainbow Bridge also feels like the strongest Fire Toolz release yet—Marcloid’s most successful and most vulnerable transmission of what’s going through her head.
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“I don’t like to bury things, or harden. I have a tendency to soften instead,” she says. “I don’t want anything between me and truth. Because it’s 100% unavoidable. So that anxiety is in the album, but it’s coded in a certain okayness with that anxiety. With just trying to relax and explore it, rather than resist it.”
As expected from the vast stylistic range in her songs, Marcloid’s taste in music is both all-encompassing and obsessively researched. Metal, prog, vintage smooth jazz, contemporary fusion, vaporwave, and noise are all equally dear to her, and all of them are celebrated in both Rainbow Bridge and her own music collection. Below you’ll find six wildly different releases that Marcloid cites as favorites, each offering a unique new lens for appreciating Fire-Toolz.
I was looking for song IDs for Weather Channel broadcasts on YouTube, and was just trying to figure out who a lot of these artists were. One of [Sam Cardon’s] songs was on there, so I looked up that album. I was acquiring so much music at that time—I was, like, hoarding it—so it probably took me a while to listen. But I remember when I first heard the song “Impulse” the way it made me feel was out of this world. That kind of music makes me feel alone in a very comforting way—it makes me feel like I’m by myself out in the sun, or in my room, and I’m happy. It’s part of why I don’t have any humanoid figures in any of my artwork. If I did hear [this album] as a child, then it was on the Weather Channel because I watched that a lot when I was younger, just for the forecasts. But then YouTube reminded me that it existed, and I ID’d it, and it just sounded perfect. It sounded like happiness.”
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I was raised on Rush, but my uncle was the one who showed me prog-metal. He introduced me to Dream Theater, and that just changed my life. The first thing I heard was Images and Words, because that was their latest album at the time and it’s such a part of my life to this day. That album is so deep in my foundation. So those kinds of guitars are just part of me and my tendencies. I’ve played in a lot of different bands that don’t come close to metal, but I feel like [prog metal] still inspires no matter what kind of music I’m making. And I love fusion so much, and you can blend it with anything. With metal, it’s really easy to do—it’s crazy that more bands don’t do it. Exivious is the perfect example of this. They’re really not that metal—like they are, but they’re so jazzy. They do a lot of distorted palm muting and stuff, but every one of their chords is just stacked with notes and the drumming is crazy, it’s all over the place. I think jazz and metal are really made for each other.”
Vanilla Call Option
[Vanilla Call Option] was so inspiring to me. I’ve always been attracted to things that people might perceive as really difficult to listen to, even for people that like noise. There’s a lot of space and silence and a lot of portions of the frequency spectrum that are not active in that album and that can make people a little uncomfortable. It’s a very vulnerable album. I just love stuff like that and I think Vanilla Call Option is one of the best versions of that kind of sound art there is.”
I think this one is similar to Vanilla Call Option in a way—not totally, but I love it for the same reasons. It just challenges your notions for what music is, and I think it’s just beautiful, I think it’s moving. It’s so stimulating to listen to. The sounds just do something to your body when you’re listening to it. I admire the shit out of minimalism, but I am not capable of making good minimalism. And I think maybe that’s why I love it so much.
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One of the members of Space Heater, Andy Loebs, hit me up one day and was like, ‘I’m in this kind of fusion-prog band and we’re recording our album, do you wanna master it?,’ and I thought, ‘Whoa, this will be my first opportunity mastering a fusion-type band.’ I was just blown away when I heard it. It’s really exciting to me when I hear music being made today that closely resembles that ’80s and early ‘90s sound that I love so much. When I hear somebody doing it now and doing it genuinely and it being really good, there’s something really special about that to me. And there’s even a noisy element to it too, because most of them are into experimental or noise music and really out-there stuff, but they all wanted to play prog and form a band like that. It’s a really fun record—and calling something “fun” might make it sound like I’m cheapening, but it’s like the best playground you’ve ever seen. Like, if your parents took you to a crazy-ass playground with all these different colored things you could go on, that’s what it sounds like pressing play on this album. Every step of the way is fun, on a deep level.”
Really there’s a Telepath era that I love. That record is incredible, but it’s really one of maybe eight. It’s just samples and processing, basically—and not an insane amount of processing or editing. He had discovered a sound that was all his own. It was sampling all this music I loved—a lot of J-Pop I wasn’t aware of, but a style I already loved. And he was taking it, and not making it into something entirely new, but just kind of decorating it and opening it up and intensifying the emotions that were already there. It’s some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard. I was already in my fusion obsession, and when vaporwave started becoming a thing, it started encouraging me to hunt even more, and make it myself. Telepath’s style of taking these great songs and slowing them down and adding processing that just brought out this whole new universe that complimented the original—it didn’t change it, it just complimented it. It was really invigorating and energizing, I remember being like, ‘I’m gonna start making vaporwave, I’m gonna start sampling these artists that people just think are washed-up sax players, and I’m gonna try and make something moving out of it.’