Albums / EPs, Reviews

Album Review: Swimming. – Venus in Sunset EP

You can’t argue a certain aptness in Sean Ross’s naming of his souful, electronic music project Swimming. In and of itself…

 

You can’t argue against a certain aptness in Sean Ross’s naming of his souful, electronic music project Swimming. In and of itself, it’s not just a search engine nightmare, but succinctly illustrates the immersive, yet strangely driven nature of this music, surprising considering that Swimming’s sounds have deep-reaching roots in hip-hop, chill-wave and post-dubstep. On the Durban-grown artist’s debut EP, Venus In Sunset, the thrust is tempered by a tranquillity; its determined, clean lines of production are offset by an eased, organic blooming of the electronic sound. All this makes Venus In Sunset a singularly flummoxing and impressive listen. 

That being noted, the immediate stand-out quality of Venus In Sunset was always going to be its production. It possesses the ability to be lush whilst being neither laboured nor dear in either pocket or sincerity. Opener ‘Buttermilk’, is languidly stripped down to its barest components and then gradually built back upon. It’s a shade darker than anything else on the ethereally postured EP as it pits Ross’s technical brawn against the inherent astuteness any electronic artist worth their salt finds necessary to secure longevity. The track bounces infectiously and the production is wonderfully tempered to keep the track just below the boil. The opposite is true for ‘Aztec’ as elaborate and kaleidoscopic soundscapes are layered down in a way that seems naturally boundless. 

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What is more is that there is something quite decadent about this Venus In Sunset EP. The occasionally indulgent composition allows room for instrumental flairs to stand on their own – a meandering piano riff on ‘Baloo’, or a guitar’s singular downward stroke on ‘Venus’ – all in a manner that creates an inviting and analogue sort of dynamism in the spaces within the music. It achieves the feat of making the audible, protracted shimmer of the synthesised beat mid-track on ‘Baloo’ sound endearing rather than self-gratifying. Ross has orchestrated a careful balance of these decisions in production and mastering that make the Venus In Sunset sound all at once luxuriant and yet sparse and natural.

Samples play an important part in the composition and character of the 5 tracks here. To a large degree it’s often hit or miss within the EP’s expanse. For instance, ‘Chelsea Blakemore (Swimming Remix)’ features a rather cringe-inducing exclamation of “C’mon!” that’s a clumsy stumbling block in the build of an otherwise refreshing remix of the Beatenberg track. Conversely, ‘Aztec’ opens up with the running of a well-worn LP on a deck, that could easily double as the warm crackle of burning paper – perhaps the lighting of a cigarette – pleasantly immersing a listener to different depths depending on the situation in which it is heard and perceived. To any degree, ‘Baloo’ stands out as a winning formula in this regard; sighs, moans and handclaps that are carefully dialled in and out of the beat let the track float above any of its dubstep trappings. 

Notwithstanding the triumphs of ‘Baloo’ as pure, swiftly moving electronic joint, Swimming gets into his groove best on the remix of Beatenberg’s effervescent (and long-omnipresent) ‘Chelsea Blakemore‘. It turns out to be an important element in rounding out and filling the EP and is placed, perhaps strategically, as the final track. Here, Swimming manages to turn ‘Chelsea Blakemore’’s inherent groove inside-out. Its irregular and distinctive time signature has granted Swimming an allure that’s difficult to understand, but easy to dance to. It eventually swivels one too many times around its axis, evolving into a series of hard-hitting synth jabs that firmly mark Swimming’s stamp on the track. 

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In fact, all its disparate components could pose a conundrum to a listener enjoying Venus In Sunset. There’s an undeniably homemade element to be felt within the well-crafted sound that make placing it within a context of its many influences frustrating – nigh on impossible. This is a quality that may endure, even after many listens and further efforts from Swimming. Maybe it’s because there’s a sense of tranquillity about Venus In Sunset that aims not to associate it with a place or time, but rather to recall a particular feeling that, no matter how fleeting, you’d never forget. It’s a lofty – dare one say, a celestial – ambition to undertake. Yet in too many moments to discount, Swimming is very close to achieving it. 

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