Pete Swanson – Life Ends At 30 (Track Review)


In 2008 the two-man noise / drone duo that was Yellow Swans announced that they would no longer be performing together which lead the duo to release their posthumous magnum-opus finale, ‘Going Places’ in 2010. As of recent, Pete Swanson, the man behind the electronic aspects of the project, proved that the title of their final effort together was not simply a title but a promise of things to come.

In 2011 that promise was met with Swanson’s return, this time with a full length solo album under his own name. Where previously, in Yellow Swans, Swanson was in part responsible for creating these lurching bodies of evolving and decaying feedback dominated compositions, these compositions he, along with guitarist Gabriel Mindel Saloman took part in creating as Yellow Swans were not completely free of melody or structure. Some releases in Yellow Swans expansive and varied catalogue even included aspects of electronic dance music within their music, most notably the duo’s 2004 album ‘Bring The Neon War Home‘ in which they exhibited their own art-damaged take on electronic music, merging the psychedelic noise they were known for with techno and dub. On the latest track from Pete Swanson, the man continues to produce the broken and eclectic off-shot of dub and minimalist techno that was ‘Man With Potential’.

When I first heard ‘Man With Potential’ I was surprised to find that Swanson had taken a turn to making techno / dub inspired music but it seems as though this has proven to be a natural transition for many noise artists, the likes of which include the famed, Black Dice, Justin Broadrick (as JK Flesh), and perhaps the most notable being Dominick Fernow who, under his Vatican Shadow moniker moved away from the abrasiveness of his work as Prurient and took a wholly musical approach to techno. On Bermuda Drain, his last major label release as Prurient, Fernow even embraced elements of post-punk, new-wave, and EDM. For fans of Fernow’s earlier, more grating material as Prurient the transition was an unexpected one at the time and was a change of pace that divided some and I must admit, much like the first time I heard ‘Bermuda Drain’ I was a bit put off by Pete Swanson’s more structural efforts in comparison to his work with Yellow Swans but given time, it all sank in and it seemed that this coming together of electronic music and noise couldn’t be more of a perfect marriage.

With this latest track, Swanson returns in a similar manner to his debut, brandishing the nearly thirteen minute long odyssey of a track, ‘Life Ends At 30’, the B-side off of his upcoming EP, ‘Punk Authority’. Brimming with the amount of contrast and texture you would come to expect from Swanson’s involvement in Yellow Swans, ‘Life Ends At 30’ is a blistering, speaker tearing approach to electronic music. Swanson’s approach to techno and dub music is simplistic yet destructive; tearing apart the structure laid out by pioneers of the genres, his latest single strips the maximalist approach of techno down to a bare skeleton and saturates it in a mess of thick overdrive, sculpted into a creation that fits the sounds he helped develop early in his career.

The track hits as hard as it ends with a pulverizing fuzz drenched beat, the deep bass fighting it’s way through masses of static and colorful synth textures only to be swallowed again and again. Swanson finds a balance between his love for noise and structure and molds them into one in a tightrope walking act of a track. Its a trance-inducing formula that at one time can feel raw yet polished, futuristic yet primitive, chaotic yet reserved. Over the span of thirteen minutes, as repetitious as the track is the amount of diversity and layering here practically begs for repeated listens, if only to hear every tortured beat alone.

On this new track Swanson took everything that was great about his debut and amplifies it, merging his love for distortion fueled noise and techno. If the rest of his forthcoming EP is anything like this new track then I can’t wait for whatever this guy decides to put out, noise, dance, or otherwise.

You can preorder a physical copy through Mexican Summer’s website.

Also, check out the visuals that accompany a shorter cut from this track:

-Tyler Thompson

Borealis – Voidness

Borealis is the solo project of Hesse Somfay, part of the Origami Sound collective who describe themselves as “an ever growing collective of artists and labels aimed towards introducing the highly subjective concept of quality emotional electronic music with an emphasis on eclecticism” – a statement that I find to be largely true within the music of Borealis and associated acts like Hmot and Nocow, the sound of which is concentrated largely on the ethereal and meditative nature of IDM godfathers Boards of Canada to the moodiness and the skeletal structure evocative of Burial.

Voidness is something of an epic, an electronic odyssey into something personal but also distant and strange. Clocking in at 1 hour and 15 minutes Voidness serves as an electronic exploration that delves into and builds off of the genres of earlier contemporaries.

Most of the tracks on Voidness are simple which is best heard on Orphan Fire, a song includes a repetitive overtly minimalistic structure which would normally be boring but it all fits together so well in the context of the album, what the music here is trying to accomplish. Like a futurist sharpening a set of kitchen knives, the beats are sharp and angular sounding but they are almost always arranged in such an interesting way. Tracks like ‘Intravenous’ show off the spontaneous nature of Voidness as loud explosions of metallic clanging often erupt at seemingly random times. The arrangements are futuristic and favor simplicity and mood while the beats are strange, never out of time with each other but more so off-kilter, irregular rhythms that bring a spontaneous element to an otherwise straight-forward album giving the otherwise ultra sleek sound that is Voidness something natural, something human and deliberately flawed.

Borealis’ makes a kind of electronic music that in a way is very much his own and while it may be unique in an out of context kind of way, comparatively ‘Voidness’ takes quite a large chunk of inspiration from musicians who have already pursued what Borealis is doing here. What I think listeners will pick up on first are those pitch-shifted disembodied chipmunk-esque vocal samples that have been used to death by nearly every future-garage / dubstep musician. Although there are some obvious borrowed ideas the effort and attention to detail within ‘Voidness’ is uncanny and definitely worth a few listens.

Voidness is a highly emotive piece of work that brings a necessary emotional aspect and level of intimacy to electronic music that is often seldom heard. The album takes the listener on a moving journey through the crossfades of the digital polish of electronic music, a certain physical viscera and interweaves the two together. While some may feel that Borealis is borrowing too heavily from his contemporaries this is definitely an overlooked piece of electronic music that deserves a higher seat in the electronic of 2012.

Overall Rating: 8.3

Favorite Tracks: ‘Womb’, ‘Unseen & Uncalled’, ‘Not Of This Reality’, ‘Intravenous’, ‘Wearied, We Keep Awake’

Recommended: Check out the rest of the Origami Sound catalogue.

Released: 13 July 2012


Check out ‘Voidness’ on Origami Sound’s Bandcamp