Electronic smarts

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Trance once meant something quite different than it does today. Only a few years ago, "trance" was the "schizophrenia" of electronic music – a word that was used to categorize when variations were considered too case-specific to warrant another name. Trance was the chilled-out, beat-centered electronic music that you listened to while drinking coffee and recovering from Saturday night. Eventually, trance became "electronica" – shortly after the editorial staff of Rolling Stone deemed it so – and a new bleeping junk pile arose. Today, trance is synonymous with drumroll builds and predictability (see also "progressive house"). Swayzak’s new release, Himawari, reminds us what trance used to mean, regardless of what you want to call it.

Beginning with a down-tempo dub track, Rastafarian MC Benjamin Zephaniah urges the listener to relax and "do something illegal." Subsequent tracks range from light and funky house jams to the electro-pop "State of Grace," featuring the soft and breathy voice of Kirsty Hawkshaw. "Pineapple spongecake" is an aggressive, Aphex-style banger – hardly light and fruity. Swayzak washes down the acidic "spongecake" with a poem on "the frozen loch," which is read over some delicate and jazzy breakbeats. The remaining tracks are cerebral, rich and housey. "Japan Air," for instance, is a densely layered house track with ethereal echoes between the downbeats and squiggly synth stabs waving the conductor’s baton.

Swayzak’s music is both versatile and accessible, making Himawari a great choice for those looking to taste electronic music for the first time. At the same time, Swayzak’s detail and versatility will make seasoned beatheads expand their horizons, and venture into the less abstract and more melodic worlds within electronic music.

Robert Gorell writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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