8 November 2019
Robin Stewart and Harry Wright fell into the electronic music domain through the cracks, almost by accident. Before Giant Swans, the duo had a different project, the Naturals. Through this early vehicle, Stewart and Wright would navigate the experimental rock domain, drawing influence from pioneering figures like Lightning Bolt. Yet, through a series of seemingly random events, a broken arm, and interacting with their native Bristol underground scene, Giant Swan came to be. A series of excellent EPs would ensue, as the duo produced their unique brand of techno-infused electronic music with elements of rhythmic noise and extravagant flourishes ranging from industrial to minimal. Yet, despite Stewart and Wright making a move away from their punk origin, Giant Swan never deny their past. All their works up to this point speak to that fact, and this narrative continues with their most complete work to date in their self-titled debut.
The energy and conviction with which Giant Swan arrive owe a great deal to their hardcore point of origin. “55 Year Old Daughter” immediately erupts with volatile energy, spectacularly tearing across the dancefloor motifs. Chopped up vocals are processed and blended back together to produce an exhilarating result, as the duo masterfully continues to mutilate the traditional techno concepts.
“Pandemonium” features the same energy, albeit this time Giant Swan call upon a distinct industrial sense to complete this reign of terror. The metallic quality of the percussion and the relentless, unyielding progression create a suffocating effect. “Pan Head”, “Weight of Love”, and “YFPHNT” revel in the same ecstatic feeling, with a healthy dose of bass joining in to complete this intoxicating rhythmic noise revelation. Everything in this manifestation of Giant Swan is sharp and volatile, a world in a state of constant flux, on the verge of imploding at any point.
Yet, while the punk origin of Stewart and Wright provides frenetic energy, it’s their experimental mindset that performs the deep dives in their self-titled work. Even during moments of utter hard techno dominance, Giant Swan still find a place for their introspective investigations. Sudden drops from the harsh reality of “55 Year Old Daughter” and “Pan Head”, momentary slips into a restrained place act as a precursor for the minimal and investigatory sense of Giant Swan.
The first complete descent to a noise informed ambient abyss is introduced with “‘I’ As Proof”, as the duo contort their sharp synthesizers to operate in a laid back manner. It is an uncomfortable listen, with an overshadowing feeling that an explosion is imminent. But it never arrives. Further mechanized ambiance is produced with “Not a Crossing”, with Giant Swan again implementing their voice processing, but this time to create a harrowing effect. It is this promise that “OPAFS: R”, “Peace Fort 9”, and “Spisbah” fulfill, with the duo trespassing slowly into dark ambient territory, losing all their structural prowess in favor of the mysterious and otherworldly minimalistic sense.
Stewart and Wright are outsiders in the world of electronic music, and thus they do not feel they have to conform to the orthodoxy of the genre. It is exactly that attitude that has made them such an enticing act from the start. Their energy is drawn from hardcore music, their experimental scope doesn’t lie in the electronic domain, and their take on ambient music is more closely related to dark ambient motifs. Yet, Giant Swan is exactly what the electronic music scene needs. A fresh perspective from two weird characters.
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