Richard Swift: Instruments of Science and Technology (Otaku, 2005)

by Jason

Swift TechnologyRichard Swift. Enigmatic musician that croons like a 30’s recording artist. Frankly, he’s an amazing artist that has yet to be known by many. He has a sincerity in his music that few can attain and, with Instruments of Science and Technology, he takes his music in a totally different direction. Electronics dominate the music-scape on this disc, but, even without the organic instruments, Swift still remains a master of musical domain.

Instruments begins with a track called “Ashes.” This is an ethereal track that runs about 1:11 minutes. This ushers the listener into Swift’s digital world with elegance and ambience. “The best way to realize is to lie down on your bed and stretch out.” This quote opens “Inst.” As the drums tap out a danceable beat, a metallic voice states, “We are the instruments of science and technology.” Perhaps the listener is being ushered into a place where brains are washed or maybe something foreboding is coming, or it may be that a party is waiting around the corner. Either way, Swift sucks in the listener from the very first note on this disc and not going on his electronic journey is just not an option. The original sampled voice asks the listener to relax, be at ease, perhaps giving the listener an uneasy calm. “Subplot” is next on Mr. Swift’s tour. This begins with an ambient sound and small “crackles” here and there. The track feels warm, perhaps the heartbeat of a man underneath the technology. This is a serene departure from the previous track. Beautiful. Pensive. Floating.

“Shooting a Rhino Between the Shoulders” follows with a tribal beat. Noises like birds and insects twitter in-between the beats. This eerie trip through the jungle eventually turns into a drum beat only track as the animals fade to the background. Then, something like the sound of a fly transitions the listener into “Plan A and Plan B.” This has an offbeat sort of hollow sound, like someone bouncing a golf ball in an echoing garage. Over this beat are floating sounds that shimmer and almost have violin like qualities. Eventually, rain comes into the soundscape and the shimmering sounds float between the raindrops. This track really turns into something beautiful and serene. “Theme 5” begins abruptly with a sort of tribal feel in the percussion and warbling keys with high-pitched blings. The feel created by this has an almost chaotic quality to it. This is a short track that melds into “War/unWar.”

“War/unWar” starts with a science fiction type feel, like in the old sci-fi serials seen on tv. It is alien like, peaceful, and yet dissonant. “Theme 4” has another tribal type beat to it and there are laser sounds, accordion type keys, and tapping noises. Swift really knows how to take disparate, chaotic sounds and bring them into a sort of harmony. It is beautiful and masterful in its own way. “Theme 3” has a bit of an off-beat with vibrating keys answering one another. The beat is created with a spring-like sound and the vibrating deteriorates into fuzz at times. Mid-track, there is a sort of “laugh” by the electronic and a voice appears counting to seven. Here, an organic instrument, and acoustic guitar, comes into the mix. Perhaps the human part that underlies “Subplot” is trying to break out amidst the pops and clicks. Also, this is the first time on the disc that Swift actually sings.

“Clay Young Battles the Man” starts with fuzz and a sort of hard beat, like someone running. There is definitely a fight contains amidst the noises. Perhaps Clay is our hero and decides that the washing of his brain, and others, is not acceptable. For some reason, “the plot” of this disc, as I interpret it, reminds me of Logan’s Run or THX 1138, with a theme that, perhaps, technology doesn’t make one’s life better. I am probably reading into it a lot, but I love that this disc of almost all instrumentation and no vocals can tell me a story. Once Clay is done, “Ghost of Hip Hop (New Apostles Mix)” comes to the fore with shimmering ambiance, click and blips, and swirling organ. Once the initial floating is sorted out, a short hip-hop sort of beat kicks in periodically along with clapping. The blips and clicks float among the beats and claps. This hip-hop beat moves the listener into the final track: “They Provide Lights.” This has a chaotic sort of feel with organ-like keys, clanging and spacey noises. The organs eventually take charge in the mix and the blips, clicks and clangs seem to swirl about in the background.

This is a fantastic album. This may very well be my favorite Richard Swift piece of work to date. It’s chaotic, ethereal, beautiful, and frankly a fantastic listen. Everyone, go out and get a copy of this disc.

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