Swamp Sounds / Uncle Pops and the Dumbloods - Split

10 songs
36:22 minutes
***** **

Swamp Sounds page / Uncle Pops page

Scottish independent label Bearsuit Records is known for its experimental artists. Quite often they decide to release split albums from two lesser known artists, making it for the listener quite interesting to discover new sounds from two bands at once. As always with them, you should not expect easy listening. On this recent split album, we get five songs each from Japanese artist Swamp Sounds and Scottish musician Uncle Pops and the Dumbloods.

Let’s start with Swamp Sounds whose five tracks transport you into some really dark kind of electronic music with a strong industrial touch. The opener Marionette, their only track longer than three minutes, starts right away with an abrasive synth line, and from there it takes you into a dystopian futuristic world where the machines seem to have taken over. The song is actually quite danceable, but not in a happy way. Instead you feel the cold chrome, the oily residue of machines and an overall robotic vibe that could have come from a strange dance club in the lowest levels of a starship. Skull Disco may start in a more conciliatory way, but soon adds its metallic beats that seem to be Swamp Sound’s signature sound. Enough is happening in this short song to make it more than just a mere exercise in grating electronica. The following Moon Circle reminds me of the works of the television score composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer, which should be considered a compliments. Kontra is a playful exercise with a jazzy bass line, and then it all ends already with the spooky Houndstooth.

Next up are the five tracks from Scottish musician Uncle Pops and the Dumbloods, whose songs are usually a little longer. Harry Smith’s Paper Planes is still a short piece, starting in a rather meditative way before distorted guitar-like sounds take over, which is also when the beat starts picking up pace. Portrait In An Egg Cup starts like a duet between banjo and cello, before later on it becomes more upbeat with some well-deserved distortion. The following three tracks are more arty, with The Comfort Zinger being a really slow and moody piece with many moments of not much happening at all. Song For Broken Singers is nearly seven minutes long, and seems to restart at every full minute, adding a little more to the track. Feels a bit like modern classical music to me. Finally we get the hypnotic Autoroute, maybe something like a tribute to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, although Uncle Pops’ track ends already after four minutes.

It was a good idea to start the EP with the more furious music of Swamp Sounds, and to end it with Uncle Pops and the Dumbloods, who had the good sense of putting their more accessible material in the beginning of their set. It is a surprisingly listenable split-album although you have to have a knack for experimental music if you want to fully enjoy it. But once again, this small indie label has shown how much intriguing music can be discovered below the radar of commercial accessibility.

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