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Friday, April 1, 2011

Swimmer (Bandcamp, 2011) ****

By Paul Acquaro

'Swimmer' is a new release from a group of the same name hailing from Chicago. I'm not entirely sure how I came across this group, but I downloaded a copy of their debut from and have been enjoying the fruits of their labor over the past few days. Swimmer, the band, is comprised of the guitar and drum duo of Dave Miller and Cory Healey, who, along with their respective instruments, employ some technologies to enhance their compositions. 'Swimmer', the album, is a collection of free improvisations that really showcases a mastery of a very personal and interactive musical language.

The guitar in the opening tune of 'Answer Tomorrow' invokes melodic snippets, mostly comprised of single note lines with chordal accents, all wonderfully scattered amongst the animated percussion. 'Conduit' features percussion, beginning with scratches, rattles and a subtle sonic backdrop. Slowly building, a great amount space is afforded to the extended and ethereal melodic line, layered over a wash of sound. A quick fade drops us into 'Phoebe', which is more frenetically paced, with percussion and guitar talking back and forth in time. Soon the guitar develops a simple repetitive figure and is joined by a second line in harmony, then a third -- Miller is using a real time looper to great effect. Healey plays with timing, accents and beat placement behind the stack of guitar layers.

I find this approach to music very interesting, very much a product of the technology that allows musicians to loop themselves and create compositional stacks that move both upward and outward at the same time. Of course there is a danger here in drowning listener in too many layers of a similar tonality or too much repetition, but Miller pulls it off very well.

After the crescendo of layers, there is rather seamlessly segue to a dense cluster of chords to finish off the song. 'Montrozier' begins with slightly demented arpeggios to connect some angular and innovative melodic ideas. The 8 minute 'Lifter' is like a minimalist Nels Cline sound collage. As the conversations continue on the recording, each one employs a different approaches, keeping it fresh and interesting.

Defying simple categorization, the unique approach to music construction and the effective use of time makes this duo recording a really compelling album.

Download from Bandcamp.