The Swords Project – Entertainment is Over if You Want It

The Swords Project
Entertainment is Over if You Want It

With its 2001 self-titled EP, The Swords Project thrust its hat into the ring occupied by bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Sigur Ros, plucking out a swelling, powerful, and beautiful 28 minutes of sound that turned out to be as much of an atmosphere as it was a listening experience. The band’s latest release, Entertainment is Over if You Want It, proves to be a much different and more diverse recording, mixing various noisy, more fundamental rock elements in with the string-laden instrumentation of that original EP.
The results are surprising, as The Swords Project’s latest endeavors have turned out leaning towards a fuzzy indie-rock sound (albeit one peppered with violins, accordions, and electronic flourishes), rather than the more flourishing, flowing direction represented so strongly on the band’s original EP. Regardless of the stylistic change, though, Entertainment is Over if You Want It is a strong release from beginning to end.
After a slightly meandering 90-second opening instrumental, The Swords Project makes its sound adjustments obvious rather quickly with the hazy, dub rhythm backing of “City Life,” which vibes like Teenage Blackout throwing rhythms for Sonic Youth. The track changes up when the vocals kick in at about the two-and-a-half minute mark, as the organic drums kick in with a very buzzy and boombastic sound. The vocals are really ethereal and dreamy, especially the call that, “…everything that glitters and glides calls to attention the fact that they airbrushed you out.”
The slow build of “MD11” is intensely guitar-driven, thought the guitars themselves are measured and tempered in a very low-key manner. As the track grows a bit, it begins to take on a more orchestral feel (especially when a violin makes a prominent appearance in the mid-song breakdown/re-build up), meshing a garage rock sound with paper-thin, wispy vocals and strings to create a rather unique sound that’s equal parts Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Eric’s Trip.
The incredibly dark and morbid sounding “Cocktails and Shuttlecocks” shows a bit more of the old style Swords Project churn, as the violin tracks seem to lead the guitars around into a lot of interplay, with the key being that it’s the strings leading the guitars here and not the other way around. Putting a twist on the track is the fact that there is no great big, swelling denouement – the song just exists quite prettily and then peters out without so much as a hint of the dramatic, melodramatic conclusion that would usually be expected. While it does leave a sense of aural ‘blue-balls’ in place, it does make for interesting repeated listens.
“Audience of One” is a softly dancing 10-minute number that relies heavily on a lulling rhythm and lilting violin tracks. The mostly clean-tone rhythm guitars stay in the background here (even when they seem to bulk up later in the song), as the attention is definitely focused on the strings. There are a few minor points where vocals come through into the mix, but they’re so quiet and breathy that they really only serve to accentuate the violin parts (a concept that works quite well, actually). When the guitars do manage to get a little gritty, they still manage to play behind the violins, and when all is said and done, the track turns out to be a nicely meandering number.
The opening vocal bits on “Immigration” sound eerily like Matthew Sweet, while the song itself rolls along on floating ripples of guitar, a deep bass bed, and more willowy violin noodlings. The disc closes with the nine minute-plus “New Shapes,” which actually proves to offer the disc’s few faltering points, as a few stretches of the song just seem to stretch out into nothingness. The blatantly obvious accordion track is quite cool, but overall, the song seems to drag until sometime after the five-minute mark, when the guitars bulk up, the drums go berserk, and the violins pierce through it all to the tune of various electronic additions to the mix.
If anything, taking this more garage rock approach to Entertainment is Over if You Want It really seems to have added a surprising sense of depth and resonance to The Swords Project’s already respectable sound. Expect even more great things from this band in the future – this disc is recommended, and in a big way.