Review Summary: Meticulous malformities.Type II
is the kind of thing you would find lurking fathoms below the ocean, in a dark uncharted abyss. It's an oddly-shaped mass adorned with the remains of melted crystals, shimmering in the blackness. Its base is made up of the liquefied remains of different minerals, with an oily sheen and other unidentifiable components like possibly fish entrails. It salivates and oozes from its misshapen glands when plucked from its habitat and dropped onto the examination table. It unsettles the *** out of you, but you can't look away.
Ponderings of possible meanings behind repulsive clumps of organic and inorganic substances aside; Sex Swing are a sextet composed of musicians from all over the UK's underground circles. This includes acts like Dethscalator, Bonnacons of Doom, Mugstar, and even guitarist Jodie Cox who played guitar on Earth's previous studio album Primitive and Deadly
. The collective's musical style can be distilled down to a discordant blend of noise rock and psychedelia, sometimes mixing their own jagged version of krautrock's rhythmic repetition into the mix. Add in some blasts of free improv saxophone curteousy of the excellent Colin Webster, and that's Sex Swing's sound in a nutshell. That's discounting some elements of no wave that crop up here and there, but that's mostly relevant to the band's self-titled debut album that was released through The Quietus Phonographic Corporation back in 2016.
, the album, opens with a nearly 12 minute pulsating and churning drone affectionately titled "A Natural Satellite". It's an incredibly ominous piece that does its best to revolt the listener. Robotic and sloshing synths blare off in the distance, the bass and saxophone rasp like the grime and guts of some biomechanical shell that's slowly waking up. Type II
's overture comes in the form of a moaning whale song and some crackles that gradually intensify and swell for about 30 seconds, before breaking into a hellish squall of saxophone and downright pummeling guitar that distresses and settles into a tepid bass groove as Dan Chandler's seemingly automated vocals take center. The harmonized chants of "PASSOVER, PASSOVER" make the whole thing feel like the accompaniment to a sacrificial ritual, or a chant for the purpose of transcendence. The song continues on its consistent groove but gradually falls into more disarray as the sound of the instruments gets more dissonant and the vocals start to drown in the static. The cacophanoy wrought upon by the band reaches a deafening crescendo as a long-drawn sax note fades into the ether alongside a sonorous synth note. If Sex Swing
sought to nauseate and fascinate, Type II
is a clear-cut expression of ire and seduction. A Passover in the purest sense.
Proceeding entry "Skimmington Ride" is more on the hypnotic side, with tribal drum repetition and downtuned guitar riffs that hang ominously until the track kicks in when the bass joins the fray, then the sax to amplify further. What occurs onwards is a drunken sort of coalesence for a few minutes, the band's instrumental formation fades in and out, culminating on the bridge over Dan Chandler's slurred speech about...something twisted, it's a bit disquieting for sure. For the sake of trivia, term "skimmington ride" comes from a folk custom in which a mock serenade was staged to publicly shame individuals, usually over moral disapproval, for things such as adultery.
"Valentine's Day at the Gym" ushers itself in with a splash of synthesizer, before Chandler comes stumbling in rambling about someone having the string of a jade amulet snatched from their chest ("Nighttime Worker" comes to mind) and everyone getting "...a turn at the peephole" like Interpol's Paul Banks on a bad trip. Hell, that's one way to sum up the song really. It's a decadent and eerie bit of imagery that sticks with the listener, nonetheless. A synth explodes in the distance and a slowly creeping horn line comes into the picture as Chandler picks himself up, starts murmuring "I don't like to wear the make-up..." and the drums start to rumble, a groovy blues riff hits at consistent intervals, electronics swell and burst and the whole damn thing explodes. The rhythm section hits full throttle, and sickening sax squalls accompany progressively unhinged ramblings. Probably my favorite song on the album for its sheer potency. It's a sensuous, provocative routine that leaves your head spinning and wanting more. Aural debauchery at its finest.
Penultimate cut "La Riconada" is an angular guitar exercise and lands among one of the wilder tracks on the album, full-on dissonance and anxiety-inducing caterwauls make it a pleasing outlier among most of the behemoth jams and exercises in auditory ferocity here. A fitting palette cleanser and lead-in for the closer "Garden of Eden - 2000 AD", which clocks in at just under 9 minutes. It's a steady-paced jam where the krautrock influences really show, ethereal sermons backed by a perfect communion of the band's tight playing. Glitches and sax hits start breaking into the mix, disrupting the outwardly pristine exterior while the grooves dig into the earth and continue beyond resistance. There's a ritualistic quality to the whole communion, much like "The Passover". A leisurely stroll in the Garden...until everything is suddenly sucked into the void, ghostly voices growing higher pitched until imploding into incomprehensible echoes.
Then, the utopia burns. A full-blown maelstrom unfurls and discord is let loose. The whole band goes into what I can only describe as a psychosis of pure catharsis as the volume increases and their playing reaches dangerously high speeds. Guitar, bass, drums, and sax all going ***ing mental in probably one of the most violent musical displays I've ever heard. The whole uproar implodes in upon itself before long, and all that's left is precious silence.
At a slim-fit 7 tracks and 39 minutes, Sex Swing have managed to craft what will probably go down as one of the most outwardly ugly psychedelic rock records of the year through careful refinement of structure and balanced chaos. Gaze upon its carefully trimmed features, and stay for Jason Stöll's calamitous bass tones? Perhaps Dan Chandler's depraved adages, or Stuart Bell's masterful drumming...maybe even the angular guitar talents of Jodie Cox? Oliver Knowles' unearthly keyboards, synths, or violin (which he's apparently credited for...maybe the racket on "La Riconada"?). My point is they're all excellent musicians. Nevertheless, I'm going to go dip my toes into the colorful madness, again, again, and again...