Swayzak review for 365mag.com



Artist: Swayzak
Label : Swayzak Industries
Rating: 8.5 out of 10.0
Released: 2009-04-27
Type: Album/CD

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Finally, there is a properly mastered version of this 1998 classic from the English partnership of James Taylor and Dave Brown. The term seminal is often overused to discuss the importance of an artist or their touchstone work but in this case no other word could apply to describe Snowboarding In Argentina.

Just listening to the "woosh"-ing synth pads and primitive analog delay used on the horn stabs of the opener Speedboat invites immediate comparisons to far more contemporary work from the M_nus imprint, Deadbeat, or even Herbert. In fact, this album sounds just like a lot of techno records coming out right now but when placed in the proper context of late 90s London Snowboarding suddenly looms large as the modern techno template. But the question here is the necessity of revisiting this defining gem and what new insights can be gained in an album so far removed from its original time and place. The answer to that lies Matt Densham's deft hands in re-mastering this album. His mix re-conceptualizing this album eleven years on to better fit the sound palette of today's techno producers.

In a side-by-side comparison of Burma Heights with its buzzing synth melodies, churning deep house bass lines, hints of dub, and even rolling break-beat passages the 2009 version is brighter and bouncier to meet today's dance floor standards. In looking back it seems the original mix was designed more to accentuate the Model 500-like electro elements as well as the exquisite dub and chill-out aspects that everyone now associates with Swayzak but not the deep house and Basic Channel-like techno foundations that really drive this whole album. A prime example of this kind of transformation can be found on Low-Rez Skyline. In it's original 1998 form sounding a lot like a precursor to the whole electroclash scene while re-mastered it takes on the moody beauty of singles found on trendy house labels like Diynamic or Freerange.

What's amazing is how long Swayzak let each of the tracks on Snowboarding play out. It seems that as the duo has sold more records they have tightened their compositions to fit a more pop oriented format with a focus on shorter tunes and lots of vocals. But here they let each track play out like a mini-composition really allowing each one to breathe going in many directions at once but never to the point of excess. Even Fukumachi, with its very obvious Detroit influences still unfolds over its ten minutes with more twists and turns than a windy, mountain road from house to techno and back again. It's hard-to-believe that this track was the b-side of Swayzak's very first release-a release they made on the weekends and after work when everyone else was off having fun. The good news is that the efforts all paid off as this album helped to launch their career. And it's hard now not to hear Richard Davis singing on tracks like L.O.9.V.E or Evil Dub which of the seven cuts on this album sound an awful like prototypes of Swayzak's later hit singles on albums like Loops From The Bergerie and Some Other Country.

It seems somehow fitting that the pair's first single Bueno closes Snowboarding In Argentina, this 12+ minute odyssey stretches the farthest in terms of genres touching on house, techno, dub, and ambient- often times all at once. Later on down the road after the successes these guys would have cut the duration of this nugget in half and add some great vocals. But here listeners are treated to Brown and Taylor “unplugged” if you will, laying down the foundation of what is to become Swayzak.


  1. Speedboat
  2. Burma Heights
  3. Low-Rez Skyline
  4. Fukumachi
  5. L.O.9.V.E.
  6. Evil Dub
  7. Bueno

Swayzak - Speedboat

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