Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Record label: Software
Genre(s): Electronic, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Experimental Electronic, Dark Ambient, Noise, Tape Music
Pete SwansonPunk Authority[Software; 2013]By Colin Joyce; March 12, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGWhen people talk about the predominant narrative of noise dudes taking their drones to the dance-floor, they're pretty much talking about Pete Swanson. Alongside Black Dice's career long trajectory toward beat heavy pop-noise and Dominick Fernow's wholehearted embrace of techno conventions with Vatican Shadow, Swanson has largely abandoned his amorphous beginnings as a member of the prominent drone duo Yellow Swans in favor of static-y, bass heavy bangers. But Swanson's latest EP Punk Authority doesn't exactly pick up right where last year's Man With Potential left off.
So, I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally listened to something so glaringly loud, so profoundly bizarre, so astoundingly boisterous that it’s actually left me mildly traumatized. I’ve effectively been so “out-weird-ed” by Pete Swanson’s latest EP, Punk Authority, that I now find myself lying on the floor, recovering from a slight panic attack.
Since Pete Swanson's 2011 album Man With Potential, the rhythmic motion that lurked in the background of his former group Yellow Swans' music has been wrenched further to the surface, crystallising itself in gravelly kick drums and assorted grubby percussion. The majority of mini-album Punk Authority sounds even more degraded than MWP and last year's Type follow-up Pro Style. Its four tracks would provide little respite for those attempting to dance, instead screaming into action in an unrelenting churn of oil, steam and grit.In their evocations of sheer overload, these tracks are in line with Swanson's recent live sets, where everything was crushed together into an unbroken wall of pulsating rhythmic noise.
As one half of the shape-shifting noise duo Yellow Swans, Pete Swanson toyed with violent tones, anxious synthesizers, and rewired drum machines in various distorted combinations. After that group's dissolution, Swanson's solo career took on a much more focused approach, starting in a minimal techno mode but folding his experiences from years in the noise scene into the pulsing beats and ominous basslines. The four-song EP Punk Authority, Swanson's third release in the technoise vein, is some of his most punishing and relentless material to date, with harsh noise textures battling caustic beats in a remarkably claustrophobic environment.
The general trajectory of Pete Swanson's solo recordings is one of increased corrosion, where each new record he puts out bears a sound that atrophies a little more than the last. If you take in a few plot points-- say, 2011's Man with Potential, followed by 2012's Pro Style, and then this new EP for Mexican Summer/Software-- it feels like you're simultaneously witnessing a refinement of his vision and the gradual destruction of his core aesthetic. In a 2011 interview for the Out Door, Swanson discussed how he was often bugged about krautrock and electronic influences on his former band, Yellow Swans, and how the duo's early experiments were born out of "not being satisfied with what generally existed" in those styles.
Both with Yellow Swans and now in his solo career, the key to Pete Swanson’s work is a mischievous distance. His Portland days involved dozens of CD-Rs under myriad alterations to the Yellow Swans (a real iTunes organization nightmare), and he represented himself on his 2011 solo LP Man With Potential with a mop. And that continues on his new EP Punk Authority, walking away from the camera on the cover while inching closer with frustration to traditional EDM structures in the midst of the noise.
“In its very style, the exposition of dialectical theory is a scandal and an abomination in terms of the rules and the corresponding tastes of the dominant language, because when it uses existing concrete concepts it is simultaneously aware of their rediscovered fluidity, their necessary destruction,” states Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle. Debord, the father of Situationism, speaks to pure negation (of commodity). Punk is Returnal: the return to essence, the return to nature.
Without wishing to absolve oneself of reviewer's responsibility right out of the blocks, it’s a tough task to keep up with what Pete Swanson has been doing. In fact, over the decade or so he’s been sharing his music with the world, I’d wager that even Pete Swanson hasn’t entirely kept up with what Pete Swanson has been doing. Now based in New York, until 2008 Pete was half of Portland duo Yellow Swans, who did nothing to confound stereotypes about American CD-R noise dudes by releasing music at a virtually uncataloguable rate.