Loops From The Bergerie


Well, here’s the thing. I got this CD in the mail, see, from the good people at Backspin promotions of Brooklyn. It’s by a trio called Swayzak, consisting of (it says here) David “Brun” Brown, James Taylor and Kenny Paterson. The James Taylor in question, by the way, is not the laid-back-Martha’s Vineyard sounding fellow. Nor is he the leader of the smooth jazz James Taylor quartet.

Who is he? Damned if I know. What I do know, if only because I have promotional material in front of me, is that the title of the album is a doubly inside joke. It refers to an old French movie, Les Loups dans la Bergerie, but also to the name of the country house near Montpellier where the songs were put together and the basic tracks laid down.

(Montpellier is a city of southern France near the Mediterranean Sea west-northwest of Marseille. Founded in the eighth century, it was purchased by Philip VI of France in 1349. The city was later a Huguenot center and was besieged and captured by Louis XIII in 1622. Population: 208,103.)

(It’s exciting, isn’t it, knowing all this behind-the-scenes stuff? But then what’s in a name? The name of the band itself, by the way, is derived from that of Outsiders star Patrick Swayze. )

(Well if you were gonna name a band, what would you do?)

(Does Rolling Stone give you this kind of information? I think not.)

The first thing you’ll notice (I did, anyway) are the play-that-funky-music white noise beats, warm analog synths and low-fi sounding (albeit streamlined) echoed, moody guitars on the opening “Keep It Coming.” And as always, you can tell a lot about where a critic is coming from by the comparisons for which they reach. For example, whoever wrote the press release for this album feels that the song “Snowblind” sounds like “an electronic rebirth of the Doors.” Whereas I think it could be taken from a Pet Shop Boys experiment in minimalism.

Swayzak mostly rely on guest singers, though Brun does the vocals on a couple of the best tracks himself. Clair Diertich speaks the sexy, deadpan words to “Then There’s Her.” Mathilde Mallen’s vocal ejaculations enliven “The Long Night,” and Richard Davis delivers probably the most accomplished vocal on “My House.” Apparently Davis is going to be Swayzak’s vocalist when the trio, as they say, kick it live. This isn’t a bad idea at all; because either his tracks have the best lyrics or he makes them sound so, witness “Another Way’s” opening line: “There are many things I said, and some are true.”

“Jeune Loup” sounds as though it has ambitions to be the soundtrack to the film Flash Gordon Gets A Number With Wings and the gloriously poppy (that has a double meaning) daydream (that too) “Then There’s Her” is like a Junkie XL dub version of Gary Numan. “The Long Night,” with its echo-y, possibly double tracked bass riffs, feels kinda like a David Bowie-written Doctor Who score.

As songwriters Swayzak are not exactly Bowie, Tennant and Lowe or even Numan. Yet, there’s a bit too much focus on production and not enough on what, if anything, they have to say. Still, when the production sounds this intuitive and nocturnal, I don’t want to quibble.

It’s nice to check in along the way, after all, and if their skills continue to improve (especially in the lyric department) they should continue to produce albums of note.

The art’s kinda nice, too.

Swayzak: www.swayzak.com

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