Passovers by Sex Swing

Release date: July 10, 2020
Label: Rocket Recordings

Release wise it’s been a packed and busy season for what we might loosely call the UK noise rock underground. An absolute bumper crop of albums tumbling out into the weird lockdown limbo. For fans it’s given us plenty to blast in our ears while we’re kicking our heels and biting our nails but it’s a gear grinding migraine for bands who are often at their best in the live environment and hoping to promote a new album. One of the best of the bunch is Sex Swing‘s Type II which came out in May, four years since their debut. Taking this inconvenience in their stride as they prepared for its release the gentlemen of Sex Swing decided to help some of their friends pass quiet hours at home and set them the task of remixing their new album.

Passovers features a remix for each track on Type II in a complementary raft of styles. As these things tend to go, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, exploding their densely layered sound and picking at the elements. It pulls apart the sustained mood of the original album but doesn’t replace it with a new one. This is not Sex Swing in Dub (which has potential I think) or Type II the extended dance mixes (which most likely does not). In fact curiously most of the new mixes are actually shorter, as if the ways in which Sex Swing themselves distend and distort their music are not available to their remixers.

The headline grabbing opener is an IDLES remix of ‘The Passover’ by guitarist Mark Bowen. He gives it an ominous start, stretching out the face-melting opening blast into a ghostly snaking sound. The beat is stripped down until it sounds like hand drums and as the circling guitar figure comes in there’s a vaguely middle eastern vibe to it. Dan Chandler intones as the track steadily builds up, his vocals start running backwards and then there’s a drop into a fuller final stretch. It’s nicely done but it doesn’t quite match the visceral punch of the original. So it goes.

Anji Cheung sidesteps that pothole for her ‘Psalm mix’ of ‘Skimmington Ride’ by stripping away its driving mono-beat frenzy and setting Chandler’s vocal afloat on unearthly drones and icy atmospheres. The overall effect suggests a shadow to Ghosteen, if Nick Cave had made it back when he was still all about the old testament guilt and revenge. It’s not something I’ve noticed before but repeatedly in these mixes, perhaps because they’re afforded a little more room, Chandler’s vocals remind me of Cave’s in The Birthday Party. ‘Valentine’s Day At The Gym’ gets itself a self-care, electro-pop makeover from the great Jane Weaver. It’s perhaps not a surprise that she emphasises and adds to the synths and throws in a few of her own wordless sighs over the top but it works fantastically well. The original vocal is twisted and pushed back so that it sounds like a nagging mantra coming through a phone she has left on the side while she dances.

If Weaver brings colour and a sense of escape, Johnny Broke goes smack my glitch up on ‘Betting Shop’ chopping up the driving bassline and twisting the sax into ugly/pretty fried electrical jolts. METZ take the noise dust storm of ‘Need Battery’ and adds industrial alarms and huge Godflesh like chords to pleasing effect. On ‘La Riconada’ (The Keep – Hypoxia Edit) the drums are sliced and looped with Ministry-like guitar cuts into a busy rhythmic thundering. Cranking the tempo it boxes you around the ears but lacks the real gut punch of the original.

The general, if understandable, tendency to not quite match up to the source peaks with ‘Garden Of Eden/2000 AD’ (Brian Case Remix) which feels like a wasted opportunity. A tall order I guess. The highpoint of Type II, it rolls on a tight and irresistible groove that feels like it could just stretch on and on while Chandler’s vocals and Colin Webster’s sax trade off over the top. When it hits the final ‘2000 AD’ section it feels like the release the whole album has built towards. Case’s version dubs out the first half into post industrial fog much like Anji Cheung did earlier but then brings in a clanky drum loop and some vocal processing in a vaguely Gibby Haynes type style. It’s fine, it just feels like it could have been so much better.

What have we learnt here then? This is a pretty solid remix record. Crucially, none of these new versions present terrible missteps or upsetting filleting of the originals. Type II is an absolutely cracking album and part of the reason for that is the deceptively skilful balance of elements in its congealed sound. Pull it to pieces and some of that power is inevitably lost. If you’ve had enough baking and jigsaw puzzles, it’s not a bad diversion.

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