Swayzak: Some Other Country

Swayzak's fifth full-length Some Other Country includes some very good and even great songs, though a clear group identity gets a little bit lost in the process. By album's end, you'll be left wondering whether James Taylor and David Brown are deep house aficionados, Basic Channel worshippers, or dub-minimal techno practitioners. Those less concerned about such matters can simply lie back and enjoy this solid, hour-long follow-up to the UK duo's 2004 dance-oriented Loops From the Bergerie. The Swayzak sound's more programmed this time around and the duo seems to have a particular jones for Kraftwerk too, with three cuts featuring themes the Düsseldorf legends themselves might have authored.

A fabulous opener, “Quiet Life” weds sultry, echo-laden singing by DJ Cassy to a swinging minimal house groove that's beautifully crafted. Backbeat hi-hats crisply pierce the air, muffled kick drums pound aggressively, and synths appear as jittery texture and dramatic futurama. Cassy returns on “Smile and Receive” to deliver one of the album's sweetest hooks (“Don't you know by showing all / You're showing nothing?”), and the soulfully funky fusion of techno, dub, and house Swayzak wraps around her vocal is just as good. Also appealing is the supple electro-house melancholia of “No Sad Goodbyes” which contrasts Richard Davis's languid, soulful croon with a propulsive skip (Swayzak favourite Davis also boosted Loops From the Bergerie with his superb vocals).

Heard alongside such strong vocal cuts, minimal techno instrumentals like “So Cheap,” no matter how meticulously constructed, can't help but suffer by comparison. By comparison, voice echoes, a foreboding synth theme, and a heavier snare attack leave a stronger impression in the acidy clubber “Distress and Calling.” Though flutes, vibraphone, and exotic percussion transport “Claktronic” to Africa, the song loses none of its exuberant minimal house drive in the process. The closing songs find the group storming Berlin 's Hard Wax for two Chain Reaction-styled cuts, the dub-techno cyclone “By the Rub of Love” and the more languorous “They Return,” which wouldn't sound out of place on Fluxion's Vibrant Forms II. The album isn't perfect: thankfully limited to one song only, Les Fauves isn't in the same vocal league as Cassy and Davis and the barrelhouse synth-techno outing “Silent Luv” suffers as a result. No matter: the Cassy and Davis cuts alone earn Some Other Country its recommendation.

August 2007