Archives for posts with tag: Swell

Leeds based △Stoner△Witch△Doom△Grunge△ duo Faux Machismo have shifted the tone from their sludgy proto-metal beginnings into a kind of trance-like doom grunge form. The hypnotic minimalism of new single “For Daze” captures the 2020 sensation of being trapped in a kind existential quicksand.

Faux Machismo is Maeve Munro on guitar and vocals and Anna Ridley on drums and vocals. Munro was, until a few years ago, an Auckland-based musician (Young HellionsCat Venom, Bengal Lights), now located in the small but significant NZ underground music enclave in Leeds.

The mood of their first release – a 4 song EP – was set on pitch-black sludgy doom metal (think early Black Sabbath rehearsal room DIY recording vibes) but with a solid melodic and hypnotic heart to the songs that was familiar to fans of Munro’s music as Young Hellions.

This new single ups the recording quality and dials back the pitch-back sludgy doom metal to allow in more air and light. The more textured approach to the loud/ louder dynamic on “For Daze” works a treat, and that “I could sleep for days” chorus release is a thrilling blast of melody, anguish, and abrasive guitar powerchords.

There’s a mention of Nirvana’s “In Utero” in the Bandcamp track notes, and there’s something of that in the chorus for sure. But, in its own way, the guitar tone texture shift between verse and chorus, and the way the song is propelled along by the drums, reminds me a lot of the kind of morose quiet/loud dynamic of San Francisco band Swell, also a stripped back guitar/ drums duo at first. (Refer to the blast from a forgotten past highlighted in the previous PopLib post.)

Swell were a band (initially a duo) from San Francisco in the very late ’80s/ and ’90s with a unique and distinctive minimalist fusion of elements of post-punk, psychedelic rock and grunge played on acoustic + fuzzy electric guitars and funky motorik drumming thing going on. Here’s “Get High” from their first (1990) album.

(Much) more experimental than their peers Swell – initially just guitarist/ vocalist David Freel and drummer Sean Kirkpatrick on this album – found appreciation in the UK via regular plays on John Peel’s radio show, particularly this song and also “At Long Last” from their follow-up album “… well?”.

Thirty years on it’s still hard to work out where they fit in the grand parade of musical evolution. Maybe Swell were influenced in some way by early Pixies but maybe they weren’t, and maybe they subsequently influenced The Beta band and Gomez in some way, but maybe they didn’t.

Their first, self-titled, album was released on Freel’s own wonderfully-named label pSychoSpecificMusic before Freel and Kirkpatrick assembled a band. Their first show in the US after the album was released was support for Mazzy Star in San Francisco in 1990.

The even better follow-up “…well?” was released on PsychoSpecific before being re-released a year later on the Rick Rubin’s Def American label and on European labels, a part of the world the band toured extensively in the 1990s. Swell went on to release several more albums.

A band well worth exploring further if you weren’t aware of them before.