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Swayzak - Snowboarding in Argentina

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Artist: Swayzak

Album: Snowboarding in Argentina

Label: Swayzak

Review date: Feb. 10, 2009

Snowboarding In Argentina originally appeared in ’98, a product of the then-thriving London techno scene. To be fair, DJs James S. Taylor and David Brown styled themselves as relative outsiders, preferring a joint, a beer and studio time to MDMA and debauchery. The record was ideal for its time, or what its time seemed to be: a gentle (if eerie and melancholic) come-down from an overblown cultural boom. It would’ve been perfect post-millennial music, had the 2000s been the peaceful, reflective hangover that a lot of people expected.

At the time, Snowboarding (named for the duo’s plans for its proceeds) must’ve seemed like a relatively rickety concern. Its hypnotic, dub-inflected thump-tss-thump-tss dance tracks are fashioned with a two-megabyte sampler, an Atari console, a drum machine and some cheap-shit synths. Next to Digweed, Paul Van Dyk and the progressive house of the time, it probably sounded downright minimal. Which makes it an interesting record to revisit in 2009, after a decade of weekend-warrior dance-rock and 8-bit kitsch. Now, it sounds rich, layered and emotionally haunting. Now, it’s interesting for new reasons.

A typical Swayzak piece begins with electronic humming and a bit of static, as though one of the cords isn’t plugged all the way in. Then the beat kicks in, and tones, rumbles and sighs accumulate around it. They build verrrry sloooowly, usually over the course of about 10 minutes. They’re not immediately distinguishable, but like different Buddha Machine loops left running through restless nights, each casts a very different spell over the course of its duration. “Speedboat” and “Burma Heights” are the most connected to straight-up dance music, as though they’re still feeling the first phase of the after-party. The disc gets progressively darker from there, culminating in the outer-space cop-show theme “Bueno,” with its ominous, rubbery rhythm and haze of portent.

This edition of Snowboarding to Argentina blends the original UK and US editions, unabridging some tracks and restoring the band’s preferred sequence. For what it’s worth, Brown and Taylor consider this version “the one to have.” In any form, Swayzak still sounds gloriously out of place, too weird for the runway and too lush for the underground.

By Emerson Dameron

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