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Swayzak - Dirty Dancing

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Artist: Swayzak

Album: Dirty Dancing

Label: !K7

Review date: Oct. 3, 2002

Bring the Electro-Pop?

In 1998, in the midst of the “electronica” craze, London duo Swayzak dropped their debut Snowboarding in Argentina. Icy and expansive, the dub-infused micro-house tracks created a psychedelic chill-out masterpiece long before minimalist-techno generated an industry buzz. Compared to the beat-pop concoctions of Fat Boy Slim and saccharine dance-floor anthems, Snowboarding quickly achieved classic status, and ranked highly on many of the year’s “best of” lists. Two years later, the group surfaced again with their second collection, Himawari. Taking their early dub experimentation to a polished high, the disc offered a ganja-soaked, darker alternative to Snowboarding’s crystalline grooves. However, Himawari also saw the beginning of Swayzak’s infatuation with guest vocalists and more overtly dance-friendly tunesmithing. As “State of Grace” became an international rave anthem, Swayzak moved from come-down producers to club kings.

Two years later, James Taylor and David Brown are back with Dirty Dancing. And what better a title to introduce Swayzak’s transformation from minimalist composers to cheesy, techno-pop confectionists. Dirty Dancing opens with “Make Up Your Mind,” a bouncy cut featuring diva Clair Dietrich. Taylor and Brown’s production is top-notch, with well-placed blips and sampled voices, yet it would take a hell of a lot of Ecstasy to get past the sing-songy melody and childish lyrics. “You’re going out with her tonight, and that’s too bad,” Dietrich sings before a mock-sultry spoken word interlude, (“You say, ‘Only you can touch me this way,’ Well if all of this is true, How can she get between us? Make up your mind.”). Wow, how passionate.

The Euro-trash continues with Claus Kotai’s murderous mumblings on “Buffalo Seven.” Failing to sound either bad-ass or humorous, the track falls flat. “Celcius,” the fourth track, is (finally) an instrumental. Even here, however, the subtlety that made Swayzak’s early records so engaging is replaced with laser-beam blasts and a pumping Ibiza beat.

Though many of the vocal tracks are filled with an offsetting, existentialist detachment, (“In the Car Crash,” “Halfway to Yesterday”) they still stray far more in the direction of club-hit than artistic statement. “Halfway to Yesterday” is actually the only track on the album where Swayzak and their vocalists combine their talents into a refreshing and inventive whole. Yet, three minutes of poetic minimalism is hardly enough to redeem the bland mass of the disc.

Swayzak need to quit their rave-king pose for a minute, ditch the vocalists and rethink their role as producers. Then, hopefully, Dirty Dancing will come to be seen simply as a bump on the road to a new sound. Until then, they remain stuck in the old cliché — if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.

By Ethan Covey

Other Reviews of Swayzak

Snowboarding in Argentina

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Find out more about !K7

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