Although labeled as ‘punk’ on the Swim Team’s Bandcamp page, that label is far too constraining for the trio’s newest release, Out of the Flood — and for the band in general. People looking for a straightforward punk record will be disappointed, but for anyone else, there is a whole lot more going on here. This is a record to be savoured, one which rewards relistening.
This follow-up to last year’s Freedom/Constraint is strong out of the gate. The opening track, “Sentez” kicks things off with an intense, moody drumbeat and a healthy dose of distorted riffs. Dorothy Neufeld’s breathy vocals kick in, contrasting nicely.
One thing I notice while listening to the album is the frequent tempo changes, both within and between songs. The effect keeps the listener on their toes and actively paying attention to the music.
By the time you get to the third song, “Correspondent,” you could be forgiven for thinking it was a different record entirely. It is slower, contemplative, almost hypnotic. That mood, with its dreamy arpeggios, runs through several of the tracks — especially “Swell.”
Although these tracks seem to bear little resemblance to the louder, angrier ones of Freedom/Constraint, Murat Ayfer’s ominous drumming and Nick Short’s jangling guitar provide a common thread. To me, it feels like growth for the band (who have been compared to art punkers Sonic Youth). They are more comfortable with their sound and are exploring its potential.
The pace picks up again on the title track, “Out of the Flood,” a short, moody and triumphant piece of work. After that, the closing track slows things right down again — a final reminder from the band that they are in the driving seat and we are just along for the ride.
It’s a hell of a ride, too. Disorienting and moody, atmospheric, I feel like I’m going to get lost in adjectives trying to sum it up. Perhaps it’s best to say that it’s an experience. This album deserves to be actively listened to from start to finish — not just stuck on in the background or half-listened to on the train.