Swartz Et presents, in new album ‘Respire’, the nuances of his hometown Detroit, far from the often violent images that it is most commonly associated with. This is the music of the high up cityscapes and lonely corners that are inhabited only by individuals wishing solace. With previous album ‘Nighttides’ coming together by accident in the down-time spent in studios (he has recently mastered Futuresequence artist Widesky’s newest album as well as artists such as Windy and Carl) and taking on “a life of its own”, this most recent release perfectly encapsulates the lonely heart of a city, without being at all contrived or melodramatic.
Tracks such as ‘Butterfly Flaps its Wings’ or ‘Breathe Out the Sea’ are primarily comprised of well- mastered, wild yet intimate recordings that one would initially label as wind, under which slowly swelling guitar lines bleed quiet melodies into the track. What makes this record (paradoxically) such an intimate force of nature is that they are in fact the breathing of the artist and a friend in the studio, working on a sound experiment. Whilst in respects to instrumentation (the combination of field recordings and minimal melody lines) Swartz Et presents one with nothing groundbreakingly new, this is a non-issue, because it is in the nuances of the music itself that the true realisation of ‘Respire’’s beauty occurs.
This, it could be said, is down to what is in fact the most obvious aspect of the release’s first two tracks - the movement of breath. Whilst ‘Ocean Breath’ is a track of static, even this is made somehow to guide one effortlessly through the release, with the music never becoming static or fragile in its drones. It is this that sets ‘Respire’ aside from other such releases, such as Summons of Shining Ruins’ most recent output ‘On the Beach’ - which is by far a more contemplative record, as opposed to the immediate emotion that is introduced in every aspect of ‘Respire’. This emotive response is only heightened when one learns that the sub-bass noise on this track is in fact, as with ‘Butterfly Flaps its Wings’ and ‘Breathe Out the Sea’, part of the artist himself - his heartbeat.
The addition then of the ‘303 mix’ of what is the most static track on the album (‘Ocean Breath) - reworking the track into a slowed down, circuit bent four to the floor drum machine playing along to Sunn O))) - simply reinforces the quirky nature of Swartz Et’s recordings; not sticking to an unnecessarily dogmatic view of ‘what can and can’t be on the same album’, and simply letting what happens happen. And it is this ability to surprise the listener that sets him above the others of the genre, whilst simultaneously acting as a portfolio for his ingenious studio work. This five-track album from the back alleys of Detroit is one that will not grow tired with multiple listens - only more interesting as the nuances reveal themselves to the listener.
Review by Max Hampshire