Finally! The story of musical independence and experimentalism has a new chapter. David "Brun" Brown and James Taylor, as the British duo Swayzak, created the definition of minimal dub-techno with a penchant for vocals. What began with "Snowboarding in Argentina", developed further with "Himawari" and reached a climax with "Dirty Dancing" now receives the fourth much-expected title, "Loops from The Bergerie".
The title of the fourth album immediately sounds mysterious. Only decipherable by the initiated, it’s a play on Serge Gainsbourg’s 60s soundtrack to the movie, "Les Loups dans la Bergerie". But if you’re now expecting electronic reinterpretations of old Gainsbourg songs, you couldn’t be further from the truth. The word "Bergerie" plays the most significant part in the play on words: it’s the name of a country house near Montpellier. In late summer 2003, the country house was quickly made over into a studio and, four weeks later, the structure of the fourth album emerged. Brun from Swayzak fondly looks back on the time: "The first ideas, the basic principles of the album came into being in the Bergerie. Mixing down and final production were then done in London."
The influence of the Bergerie mustn’t be underestimated. The motto "Back to nature" made a mark on the Brits’ production. "We didn’t want to make another laptop-generated album. After the techno-pop sound of "Dirty Dancing", we wanted to go for a more live mature analog sound." During the production, the laptop was therefore often replaced by analog equipment from the 70s and early 80s: "The laptop was basically our tape recorder". Live instruments have been incorporated with the help of percussionist Francesco Brini from Bologna. The result is a warmer Swayzak sound.
Another name has also exerted an influence on the new Swayzak sound: Kenny Paterson. Confirmed fans may already know him through his collaborations on previous Swayzak productions. The co-writer and co-producer of "Loops from the Bergerie" has previously worked with the likes of Placebo, Ian Broudie and Broadcast as well as contributing to all three of Swayzak’s previous albums. Kenny’s contribution to the new album was so significant and working with him was so productive that he now may be considered a permanent member of Swayzak.
The mode of collaboration with vocalists was also adapted to the new production style. "For the last album, we just sent first loops to the vocalists by email and they then chose their favorites. This time, we worked more like proper producers and invited the artists to the Bergerie. The vocals and the song therefore developed live side-by-side."
Swayzak’s penchant for a vocal-based song structure has barely changed and for good reason: Vocalists like Benjamin Zephaniah, Kirsty Hawshaw, Clair Dietrich and Klaus Kotai have already provided that certain something different on the previous albums.
Clair Dietrich is once again onboard, accompanying the hypnotic effect of the dreamy "Then There’s Her" with her spoken-singing vocal. Swayzak’s Brun also takes to the microphone again and "Snowblind", which sounds like an electronic rebirth of the Doors, and the driving first single "Keep It Coming" showcase his vocal skills. A new discovery for Swayzak is the Parisian Mathilde Mallen, whose performances on the slower tracks, "8080" and "The Long Night", leave us in no doubt why various projects on labels such as Tigersushi and Q-Tape swear by her voice. Also new and probably the most accomplished voice on the album is Richard Davis. The Brit released his celebrated single, "Bring Me Closer", on Swayzak’s label 240 Volt. Three tracks feature his voice on the Swayzak album – "My House", "Speakeasy" and the second single, "Another Way" – have cemented this good collaboration, as has the plan to construct the new live performance around him. This marks the first time that Swayzak have taken the step of bringing live vocals to the stage and underlines even more the importance of vocals in their songs.
The artwork for "Loops From the Bergerie" is also noteworthy. The design was undertaken by the London graphic designers Blue Source, who have already produced covers for Zero 7 and The Chemical Brothers.
"Loops From the Bergerie" points the way forward for Swayzak. What may look like a retro step backwards technically proves to be a musical step forward. This sign of maturity, with a deep-rooted sound, raises the Brits from laptop heroes to real producers. Swayzak has finally come of age.