Unconventional techno with a punky edge, this debut LP from the Bristol duo consolidates their excellent run of EPs.
But in a world awash with thuggish lo-fi techno, the mythical ingredient that makes Giant Swan so effective is a deftness of touch. Being monstrously heavy is nothing new. Stewart and Wright, however, have mastered an angle of attack where each bruising element lands in its own space thanks to canny mixing and arranging. This is evident on their self-titled debut album—not least on "Weight Of Love." Though the track is incredibly busy, its elements dance around like a featherweight boxer, sizing up for the next haymaker.
Away from the brute force of Giant Swan's bigger tracks, there's space for vulnerability—"'I' As Proof" brings Stewart's vocals to the fore with the endearingly British slant of a self-produced '80s new wave band. Though the delivery struggles against the blistering array of shapes being flung around, the gloomy mood feels just right in Giant Swan's world. For the most part, Stewart's voice is a texture thrown into the trash compactor along with the other bits of scrap metal, pulped and spat back out in incisive rhythmic bursts.
While they emerged from the same Bristol-centric, DIY milieu as Young Echo and their kin, Giant Swan has felt more international, guided more perhaps by Ministry than Smith & Mighty. As former members of the post rock band The Naturals, Giant Swan are unbeholden to DJ-friendly track structures. But in the same way that much of the Young Echo collective make artful use of noise and reverb, the duo succesfully channels the dub of their hometown—"OPAFS; R," for example, is thick with ganja smoke, the dread bass like tar around your trainers.
Giant Swan holds together convincingly. Its modes of expression all spring naturally from the same source, whatever the tempo. That said, Stewart and Wright excel most when turning to bangers. After the slurring, sedated sludge of "Peace Fort Nine," "YFPHNT" brings the fiercely physical essence of Giant Swan back into focus—Stewart's voice is rendered as a hail of bullets while Wright's gnarly synths slap and mutate around a four-on-the-floor thump.
On Giant Swan, the duo display a fearsome mastery of techno dynamics, but it's their detachment from that world that makes their music so compelling. Being genuinely alternative is not just an aesthetic choice—it comes from deep within, as Stewart and Wright have ably demonstrated over the years with their uninhibited live shows. It just so happens that they have a knack for techno tropes within their musical make-up, but they couldn't sound less like a conventional techno act if they tried.