A heavy-psych supergroup composed of members of some of the noisiest names in the business — Mugstar, Part Chimp, Dethscalator, Dead Neanderthals, Earth and Bonnacons of Doom — was never going to be easy listening, yet over the course of their self-titled debut as Sex Swing, the depths of crushing, corrosive musical hyperviolence the group mines go so deep they must be heard to be believed.
Things start ominously with twelve-minute leviathan ‘A Natural Satellite’, opening with a slow, petrifying growl of evil electronics and dissonant drone that looms and rumbles until it reaches a peak of eerie unease. After five minutes or so, drums are introduced, at first a sparse primal thud, then scattered crashes of cymbal, building and building with mounting terror until you’re left helpless in the wake of an avalanche of a crescendo.
It’s those deep, pounding drums of Dethscalator’s Stu Bell that are the backbone of this extraordinary album, never more or less complex than they need to be, and at no point remotely flashy. They’re employed with Spartan efficiency on the album’s shattering slow marches, and with frenetic barbarism on their wicked bursts of pace — most notably the manic ‘Karnak’, a whirlwind of Tim Cedar’s battering keys and Colin Webster’s feverish sax.
More than anything the rhythm of Sex Swing concentrates and ties down their swarm of texture to the point that their assault remains all-consuming yet never overblown. Instead, firmly anchored by this leviathan pace-setter the remainder of the band are free to delve into transfixing uses of texture; the saxophone on ‘Nighttime Worker’, for example, is at first a squall, then punch with a mesmeric jab that’s to be marvelled at, as are the industrial inflections of ‘Murder Witness’.
Vocally, the album succeeds mainly on aesthetic — as transfixingly nefarious as Dan Chandler sounds as a frontman, it’s sometimes a challenge to make out what exactly he’s singing (no bad thing, necessarily). The most notable exception is on ‘The Murder of Maria Marten’, known in history as the Red Barn Murder, where in 1826 the titular Ms. Marten was killed by her lover with whom she planned to elope, William Corder, whose public execution was a press sensation two years later.
On the album it’s Sex Swing’s most concentrated moment of all, an attack of twisted keys, sax and rhythm that moves as one monolithic wave beneath Chandler’s wicked howl. Singing from the perspective of the murderer, ‘I am William Corder’, he sings with a low wail, like a doomed soul rising from the depths of hell, declaring his sins.
This, the pinnacle of a truly masterful, sonic annihilation of a record, is a murder ballad not in the melodramatic gothic tradition, but something else, something transcendent, and like the rest of the record something terrifyingly transfixing.
Words: Patrick Clarke
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