Back in the early noughties, UK-based duo Swayzak were the kings of the then burgeoning tech-house and minimal techno scenes, with their critically acclaimed early albums ‘Himawari’ and ‘Snowboarding In Argentina’ being followed by experimentation with synth-pop and electroclash on their ensuing records for the Studio !K7 label. While James Taylor left the duo in 2011 to focus on his solo project Lugano Fell, David Brown has continued to release music as Swayzak, and he’s remained fairly prolific, with this latest EP ‘Gestures Of A Sycophant’ on new UK label Beatnik Boulevard offering up just one of three 12”s he’s released over the last twelve months.
Labyrinthine and expansive are probably the best ways to describe the two new tracks collected here, which clock in at just over ten and 14 minutes in length, respectively. There’s also far more of a return to the gliding minimal techno influences and delicately fluttering textures that characterised Swayzak’s earlier work. On the A-side, title track ‘Gestures Of A Sycophant’ opens things gently at first, sending a vaguely melancholic melodic motif cycling against fluttering layers of digital crackle and muted kickdrums, before bright rave-y arpeggios begin to gradually rear their heads out of the haze, the 4/4 rhythms tightening up amidst steely hi-hat programming and rattling, off-centre snares.
While there’s certainly plenty of streamlined momentum, the lulling hypnotic feel that’s generated by the gauzy textural layers results in a deeply introspective listening experience that’s far more geared towards headphones late at night, than the dancefloor. On the flipside, ‘The Anthemata’ gets darker and spookier, as a spoken word recording that sounds like it’s describing some arcane ritual gets slowly overtaken by a mass of burbling robotic electronics and sheeny synth sweeps, the brittle drum machines chattering away as the arpeggios interwine into a chaotically tumbling rush, and delayed-out vocals ebb off into the distance. An impressive EP that sees Brown using the broad canvas afforded to him to craft deeply immersive atmosphere.