TBR 28th May
The Dutch duo Detroit Swindle prepare to release their second full length album High Life on their own Heist record label. Known for incorporating sounds from across the spectrum of electronic music, the compositional pair create astounding tracks of ambient and ethereal quality that still carry the power and energy of the more upbeat varieties of the scene. By finding obscure records and blending them together with aspects of funk and afrobeat alongside electronic and house, these chefs of sound cook up a tasty display that's prepared enough to call it original. The vector of sound that manifests from the joining of live and studio sounds dances gently on the map as we sit back and enjoy.
The album starts as a keyboard and electro bass gently schmooze at a steady relaxed pace. Some vocal woahs fill the empty spaces while dashes of class coated keyboard frolic like wisping clouds and mist. Subtle feels draw in and moody synths continue to wander and strike meaningful sensations in neat layers. Once the atmosphere is defined and the magic of the groove has done its trick, it's safe to move onto track two.
More earthly sensations swiftly surf on over and a sonic backdrop of a social gathering ices the fingering keyboard melody. There is a definite live quality that brings the music closer and while the electronic drum loops and synths clearly are spinning on disks and computers, the delivery almost gives the presence of a band playing it themselves. This aspect of the Detroit Swindle sound is one of the reasons their project has gained so much momentum with the fans.
Sega Megadrive pops into my head with the style of some of the music that's poured into the rhythmic cups. Cool and mild tempered riffs of funky keyboard dances tap their notations and as rhythms swell and grow the intricacy and richness of the sounds gain more resolution. The next track speeds up slightly, a cowbell making a cosy entrance and a stabbing orchestral throb pules over the top. More catchy bass with funk and jazz infused melodies jam in the mix, and completely new energies begin to merge with what was already present.
Yes, No Maybe features Tom Misch, a DJ and songwriter from the UK. A proficiently strummed guitar opens the number before that traditional funky keyboard sound joins Tom in a unison of song. Grabby beats cause the ears to move towards the speaker, and lyrics about life in general spin a tale that we can identify with. A smooth chorus lingers on with oohs harmonising in the background, and the jazzical bobbing gambols onward. Evolution of song makes it more interesting, and its dynamics keep a mood of excitement and jostle flowing well.
Some feedback and a vocal introduction about responsibility within the music and arts scene relaxes the character of the album, organic and improvised guitar and keyboard effortlessly craft a wending transfer which points to the stars. Pitch bending and ambient tones distil a tonic of light-headed mental clarity. The pulse slows down to a sleepy awakening, conscious of note changes and nuances in the guitar playing are just enough to keep focussed. The Girl from Shiraz is a dreamy wander through moonlit corridors of sound.
Seven Davies Jr. makes a guest appearance on Flavourism, his well crafted and soulful sound is borrowed from Ninja Tune and Apron to feed the machine on this side of the water. It begins with a psychedelic drumbeat, laden with effects, and without too much fuss Seven Davies begins his deep and meaningful lines. The soul and r n b direction reveals a new side to the Detroit Swindle coin. A direct and space-age back-track makes a comfortable mattress for lyrical and poetic lines half sung over an increasingly hotting up rhythm section.
The energy meets a high point and the noise within the sound is removed unveiling a sense of skyborn clarity opening out like a viewpoint at the track's peak. Vanilla and cinnamon keep popping up, the tastes building up in my palette, the song is an homage to the sweetness in his woman – or so it seems. With a move of the hand, a new sound is projected from the system. A different set of drums begin to beat their song over a popping synthesiser which is almost hidden in the percussion. Levels increase and the pressure is raised to another bar as the rest of the instruments add their flavours to the rhythm. A much more dance orientated number, Freeqy Poly builds with dramatic surges of polyphonic waveform.
Is it a plane? Is it a train? It actually sounds like a highly effected drum roll. What ever it was the track uses it to kick from and swim out into open water. Mechanical rhythms and industrial sounds form the main section. Another rhythm based number, the tribal beats voiced by modern sounding tools brings the traditional and the new together really well. Synth notes in monotone provide an interesting layer of inert potential, and drums that roll over themselves keep the mood inspiring. Cut U Loose continues the upbeat atmosphere with a snare and kick drum combo that becomes the resting place for some famous keyboard melodies. Reminding us that these guys are working with vinyl as part of their repertoire, spicing the punch with something emotionally relevant always helps to move things along in the right direction.
It all breaks down to a simplicity coined by retro blips and randomly placed notes which begin to form a kind of springboard for the track to bounce back up from. Samples run the show and the way they're portrayed is where the work lays in this number and others. Showing us the other side of the disc jockey's method, we're treated to an expert demonstration. An entirely new dimension finishes the piece, a major key melody glistens like stars in watery reflections. Solid pluck bass keeps the quickly glowing notes pinned down to the earth.
The album ends with a track called Lucky Number 13. Distorted ambience and an eerie backdrop of drooping bass and synth open out like a flower to produce colourful and vibrant petals. Strange twists in the effect almost act like intense sunlight, throwing areas of glare over the summer time drift. Vocal lines of spoken word adorn the mix like tapestries gently lain over prominent sections. This quiet and happy feeling track finds its perfect home at the end of this diverse and very cool album.
Rowan Blair Colver for the Homunculus Media Group
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