Review Summary: “Victor Wooten does math.”
People have come to expect certain things from a math rock album, and certainly not without reason. New bands of the genre have been popping up like clones, all blowing our minds with their insane speed and angularity of equal measures; yet although double-handed tapping, multiple time signature changes and a ridiculously fast tempo have become the norm, it still manages to impress. With their debut recording, SWIMS embrace these elements with open arms and follow the trends willingly, but throw one small twist into the mix…
THEY ARE A DRUM N’ BASS BAND!
Yes, that’s right, you heard me. The four string is slapped, tapped, strummed and plucked throughout the six tracks presented with incredible finesse. The actual impact this has on the music is remarkably low, as it sounds very similar to a tapped guitar with a slightly lower pitch and smoother tone. Chords and slaps are employed on occasion to liven up the song structure and provide something more solid for the listener, and to nice effect. Time changes and syncopation are common, with rhythmic shifts being the basis of most tracks; this is especially noticeable on the energetic standout “(Pop) The Bubble Boy”. The drumming is much less of a focus then its melodic counterpart, often simply providing a backbone; it does on the rare occasion break out into an unimpressive fill, but fails to achieve anything up to the Tera Melos standard of percussion which dominates the genre. Due to the lack of instruments the texture is paper thin and underwhelming, and dynamics for the most part remain untouched in favour of tempo, with “Pegasus” and “Drawing 1: Suburban Landscapes” providing a great juxtaposition between fast and slow composition.
Looking at the record as a whole, it really can be quite inaccessible and challenging. Many of the tracks lack major hooks and melodies, rendering the songs worryingly homogenous. It’s easy to become frustrated with the over-implemented tapping and bland beats; “When Heavy Hangs the Head…” and "Knew" both suffer from uninventive song structure and uncreative phrasing. Although SWIMS finds its own innovative drum n’ bass knish within the math-rock scene, it never pushes the envelope already set by its contemporaries. Mid-ranged production can be partially blamed for the problems they face, but the style of songwriting becomes stale around the half-way mark here and is ultimately where the “Swims EP” falls. That being said, there are some immensely enjoyable songs to be heard here; if only for the “Victor Wooten does math” novelty.
Recommend tracks include:
-(Pop) The Bubble Boy.
-Drawing 1: Suburban Landscapes.