Swod: Drei
City Centre Offices

Drei, Oliver Doerell (aka Dictaphone) and Stephan Wöhrmann's third Swod album, provides an excellent encapsulation of the group's wide-ranging sound, including as it does mini-experiments, rhythm-based tracks, and elegant piano-centered settings. Snippets of hiss-laden speaking voice samples and field recordings add colour to concise tracks that otherwise emphasize acoustic instrument sounds (Doerell's guitar, bass, and electronics and Wöhrmann's piano and drums), even if the elements are woven together using electronic means.

That the project begins with the sounds of piano playing (the minute-long intro “Eins”) is significant in clarifying how central the piano is to Swod's sound, a detail that's re-confirmed when “Liebling” focuses its sound-world on piano and a field recording's nature sounds. Piano is hardly the only instrument in the group's arsenal, however, as the second track, “Sans peau,” makes evident in a rich blend of bass, piano, electronics, and drums that exudes an arresting African strain in its lithe rhythmning and animal-like noise effects. Even so, piano is the guiding instrument in “Insel,” where its stately flow is augmented by a slow bass pulse, guitar shadings, kalimba plucks, and the intermittent punctuation of speaking voices, and in “October,” where its melancholy reflections are accompanied by a backdrop of industrial textures and accents.

Elements of post-rock and classical surface during “Largo,” and the influence of classical minimalism is apparent in the motorik, Steve Reich-styled piano motifs coursing through “Hellereau,” “The Pilot,” and “I Am Here,” though to Swod's credit the piano patterns are used as springboards for the more fully developed compositional structures and arrangements within such pieces. Apparently, Doerell and Wöhrmann first worked together in producing live soundtracks to silent movies, and the detail is telling in hinting at the sensitivity to atmosphere and cinematic evocation they bring to their Swod recordings. If Drei isn't a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination, it's nevertheless a fine representative sampling of Swod's unique sound.

January 2012