Swimming: Ellipses

That Devon Ferrucci's a drummer (among other things) is readily apparent from even a cursory listen to Ellipses, the California-based musician's forty-five-minute debut album under the Swimming alias. The project's been alive in one form or another since 2003, despite the fact that he's found himself occasionally sidetracked by other projects (such as the band thelittlestillnotbigenough). In addition to drums, Ferrucci plays guitar and metal objects along with the expected computer gear. Scatterings of static and other electronic textures lend the material a conspicuous glitch dimension that's offset by the acoustic shimmer of cymbal accents, drums, and guitar. As a result, the music sometimes forms a bridge between post-rock and electronic music of the kind Oval once produced.

Like some future, post-digital incarnation of drum'n'bass, the opening track “(Aspirated) Plosives” pairs skittish electronics and an equally hyperactive persussive playfulness, with all of it cohering within his computer into some semblance of organization. Were the album to consist of nothing more than variations on that theme, it wouldn't leave all that lasting an impression, but Ellipses impresses elsewhere for its compositional quality. Though it too is a complex construction in its own right, “We Fill Gaps,” for example, possesses a dreamy melodic character that elevates it beyond the opener, while “Pretending to Have a Heart Attack,” in contrast to its flippant title, opts for a dramatic mood that exerts a strong emotional pull. During “Hourglass With Snow,” micro-lattices of electronics and harp sounds (courtesy of Rebekah Dickens) evoke the crystalline sparkle created when sunbeams strike freshly fallen snow, and his acoustic drumming skills receive a thorough workout during “What Duties (1...2...3)!,” which could easily pass for one of Squarepusher's studio experiments, with the only thing missing Tom Jenkinson's signature bass playing.

One of the biggest strengths of Ellipses is its stylistic variety, as there are as many restrained moments as harder-hitting ones on the album. After “Body Without Organs” sprinkles micro-computer sounds over a simulated jam involving a tabla player and electric guitarist, for instance, “Ellipsis Pt. 1” presents what could pass for a bucolic, back-porch exercise in folktronica (especially when hushed wordless vocals are included for additional atmosphere).The album's material apparently came together during Ferrucci's last two years of university and thus a relatedly autobiographical character suggests itself in some tracks, the wistful “Serious Cycling (A New Yorker in Winter)” one such case in point and “Ale Study” perhaps another, even if the latter's less a drinking song than post-rock excursion of the kind one might hear on an n5MD release. Rooted to some degree in improvisational strategies, Ferrucci's music exudes a loose and organic feel, much like a microbiological entity that simultaneously mutates and re-defines itself at each moment. That unpredictable quality is certainly one of the things that helps distinguish Ellipses from other releases in the electroacoustic genre.

September 2011