The Swords Project – S/T EP

Wow. Initially, I was thrown off by the pink-laced unicorn-laden packaging for this one, but man oh man is this good. The Swords Project sounds a lot like a cross between Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Sigur Ros’ Ágætis Byrjun disc. The music is very ethereal – dreamy, swirling soundscapes are the song pattern here. However, the band relies a little less on strings than GYBE!, opting for a musical mix that more resembles Sigur Ros’ instrumentation. The sounds of multiple guitars and bass are layered with piano, violiin, clarinet, melodica, electronics, and occasional plaintive vocals over the beats of two drummers to create a beautiful 28-minute atmosphere.
“Shannon’s Wedding Song” starts off with the sounds of wind blowing, while chiming guitars re-create a clock’s metronomic ‘tick-tock.’ Slowly, the guitars pick up, the bass plucks free a note or two, and as the drums complete the slow swell, a soft, almost toy-sounding keyboard melody bubbles up. The song carries along through a procession of stops, lulls, and swells for over nine minutes. The track only gets more beautiful as it goes along, as the guitars shimmer in spots as violins meander through the mix, eventually making themselves the centerpiece from which the rest of the track hangs.
“The New Assassin” picks up the tone a little, starting with an off-beat piano and keyboard piece that evokes creepy images of scary old black-and-white horror movies. When the guitar, bass and drums hit the mix, it only pushes the uncomfortable tone further. The track eventually produces some spooky whispery vocals, and the guitar-and-bass driven portion that evolves from that is a dead-on Third Harmonic Distortion groove. Listening to this, I kept picturing a young girl walking through a haunted house, and I could see the shadow following her that she didn’t know about. Eerie stuff, indeed.
“Squatting Level” starts off in the same vein as the previous two tracks, although it really gives off more of a ‘shoegazing’ vibe than the other tracks. The focus here is more on the guitar, bass, and sparse, plaintive vocals than it is the rest of the instrumentation, giving the disc a positive change of direction. The track does build up to a string-and-keyboard drenched swell of Godspeedian quality before winding down into the EP’s final track, “Case Study in Pathetics.” The closer starts off on an almost jazz bent, with guitar notes dragging out behind the sound of two clarinets. Once the drums kick in, the song evens out for a bit, eventually returning to the guitar-and-clarinet sound (though this time, it’s backed with formidable bass support that really adds depth to the passage). When the song does pick up from the delicate passages, an edgy violin piece adds power to the drums and guitars, creating a powerful and emotional mood out of the contrast between the track’s distinct pieces.
The Swords Project has put together quite the listening experience with this half-hour EP. It falls anywhere between Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Spiritualized at different points of the recording. While there is a definite overall mood to this release, each track carries it’s own distinctive little twist, making this EP a short, but interesting experience. Highly recommended.