Albert Swarm's music sits outside of most of the major narratives in bass music; it's not house, it's not hip-hop and it's certainly not dubstep. Maybe it sits closer to some outfits like Circle Traps who make misty-eyed dance-not-dance. It's also definitely a little retro, but it isn't a slave to cheap nostalgia. Opener "Homecoming" has a peculiarly archaic field of reverb and a tinny synth riff that feels indebted to the past, but implacably so. While that track ambles to a linear resolution separate from quantized dance music, the other tracks vary from beat-driven to ambient fuzz, but again, they always feel like they're halfway to actual structured beats. Both "Foundling Wheels" and "Familialities" are built off rhythms that land like they're wearing protective slippers, but the effect is warm and enveloping instead of neutered. These tracks are loaded with candied motifs and romantic overtones to an almost excessive level (particularly when the chiming guitar of "Foundling" falls away to a voice saying "I love you").
His hands-on vocal manipulation on "Familialities" is expert, the most heart-wrenching artificial opera this side of Balam Acab. Vocals play a more traditional role in "Aging Out," coasting on the Field-lite blustery drone of sighing synths, but closer "Recurring Dream" does away with them entirely, using dubstep's silence and lurch to craft a lullaby as unsettling as it is soothing. It's hard to say what makes Albert Swarm so special; there's certainly no shortage of producers making in-between music that's pretty and ornamental, but there's substance here. Held presents a new artist with a clear vision that he knows exactly how to realize, and it's more than just persuasive, it's damn near heart-tugging.
Tracklist: Albert Swarm - Held01. Homecoming
02. Foundling Wheels
04. Aging Out
05. Recurring Dream