The double-EP Richard Swift as Onasis is as creatively fortifying as it is unhinged and unpolished, a primal slab thrown into the fire for dancing and merriment during the chilly months while we await Richard Swift’s second full-length.
Once upon a time, in a time not long ago, the idea of a record was to capture a performance, to grab the those undulating wavelengths from the air and stick them to this thing that went round and round, so later on that performance could be heard and felt and experienced again. Before the beloved studio trickery of our beloved Beatles or Beach Boys or some 60’s pysch-rock-I’m-cool-cuz-I-know-them-and-you-don’t-Band, cats gathered around a couple microphones, plugged into that thing that went round and round, and let at it. This is hardly a forgotten art, but its purveyors (and us) are languishing in the onslaught of computer perfected 1’s and 0’s coming from our speakers, where honesty and blemish and truth are subjected to a recording filter called Sheen that actually has setting to choose how much Soul is removed from the music. So it’s no surprise Swift, a long-in-the-tooth impresario of all not-a-computer, would jangle and stomp out this tangent of jams (a flip-side of sorts to his electronic INST recordings) that tape-echo a generation of pioneers who believed Rock and Roll and the Blues a celestial calling and not a lifestyle choice.
The truth is — no matter what the artist’s intentions, however well-conceived and pre-articulated — if the end result is a bore, well then, phooey. Who cares? Rightly so. Now most listeners won’t think about how Swift did this on a cheap four-track; they won’t immediately see his nods to Link Wray and Howlin’ Wolf; it doesn’t matter. The songs stand up. The songs get in your belly and wiggle your hips and stomp your foot and bob your head. Some of them float around like organ music that slipped out the church backdoor and headed to that bar with vinyl booths and a Little Richard photo over the burbling Wurlitzer of 45’s. They got vibe and atmosphere. They act like great harmony, making whatever they’re accompanying richer and wider and thicker. It’s no accident that a few of the jams turn up in Swift’s first score for a little film, and nor is he a stranger to playing with mood and sound like candlelight and fingerpaints.
Whether Instruments of Science and Technology, or the tin pan rattle of The Novelist, or his own short films, or now with Onasis I & II, Swift keeps finding sides of himself to explore and make their own whole. While one day someone somewhere might begin to add up all these parts and find a Swiftian theme winding through his work (probably much like a kite string tangled up in a tree), it’s enough we have a new collection of literally rock solid jams to turn up loud, really loud.