Giant Swan are something of a Bristol institution. Robin Stewart and Harry Wright have spent years carving out a niche for themselves in the city, their name now synonymous with the aggressive, kinetic, and often improvised techno sets they create. They hold a disregard for the stoic norms techno often offers in favour of a fever pitch approach. Their music is sweat-inducing flurries of dark, industrial-tinged experimentalism, a far cry from the ‘folded arms and nodding’ minimalist Berlin techno that personifies large parts of the scene today. Their debut full-length, a self-titled LP released on their own label KECK, acts as a showcase for their unique brand of electronic mastery, and finds a band deftly converting their special brand of mayhem from the dancefloor to the studio with surgical precision.
sweat-inducing flurries of dark, industrial-tinged experimentalism, a far cry from the ‘folded arms and nodding’ minimalist Berlin techno
The album begins with 55 Year Old Daughter, opening with stuttering vocal samples, before industrial, twanging percussion hits begin to build tension and a bass-heavy synth enters, driving the dark atmosphere. This style of disconcerting mechanical sounds played around oscillating bass rhythms and inhuman vocal samples carries through large parts of the record. Following the opening track, Pandemonium wears the guise of a seething beast, breathing in and out as an unsettling and undulating bassline rattles beneath the surface, keeping the track in time.
oscillating bass rhythms and inhuman vocal samples carries through large parts of the record
On the second half of the album, YFPHNT does a good job of transplanting their live sound, with a constantly moving kick drum pushing a series of bleating synths and acidic thuds along clinking percussion samples and some more vocal manipulation. The ever-changing and hostile din created in this track’s wake feels like the type of song their already established fanbase would expect their debut to be filled with. Weight of Love, after a stint of slower moments elsewhere on the album, makes returning to a more beat-driven track into a bait and switch that plays out well, as a rolling bass sound drives an almost acid take on techno though the album’s pre-established sound palette of inscrutable vocal samples and glitchy mechanical sounds.
a rolling bass sound drives an almost acid take on techno
Giant Swan are more than just a violent band however, with some of their compositions not toying with more subdued moments. OPAFS:R begins slowly, with squealing samples that are difficult to distinguish whether they belong to a human or a machine. The track then moves into a crawling spiral of mechanic percussion and thick, warm electronic lines as it floats to a climax.
Elsewhere, ‘I’ As Proof features an industrial soundscape and an unnerving atmosphere as crooning vocals take centre stage, coming close to sounding like a track that wouldn’t be amiss appearing on Oneohtrix Point Never’s Garden of Delete. Personal favourite Peace Fort 9 contains some truly haunting harmonising vocals that give the album a moment of surprisingly subtle melodic beauty, before screeching, abrasive electronic elements silence them.
haunting harmonising vocals give the album a moment of surprisingly subtle melodic beauty, before screeching, abrasive electronic elements silence them
All of these different styles and approaches existing under a singular atmosphere and sound leaves Giant Swan’s debut feeling like a statement of intent as to where they are going next: anywhere they please.
The versatility captured in these ten tracks speak of a band able to manipulate their style to whatever suits them, an ability to create eerie uncertainty as deftly as they can produce adrenaline-fused moments of chaos. Giant Swan’s debut, much like their much-lauded live performances, is constantly surprising, filled with genius moments of experimentalism, and feels genuinely unique.
a statement of intent as to where they are going next: anywhere they please
Giant Swan is available now via KECK: https://keck.ochre.store