This Swim Deep article was written by Suzanne Oswald, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Sarah Gosling
With ‘One Great Song and I Could Change the World’, Swim Deep’s ambitions are made immediately clear on their sophomore record ‘Mothers’; with high hopes for this album they want people to sit up and take notice. Interestingly, frontman Austin Williams told DIY Magazine that he “wanted to make a modern day Screamadelica”, a career-defining album for Primal Scream which saw them reinvent their sound and receive massive critical acclaim. Similarly, Swim Deep have evolved hugely since their 2013 debut album ‘Where the Heaven Are We’, transforming their dreamy indie-pop melodies into an acid-drenched experience. While ‘Mothers’ does not reach the heady heights of ‘Screamadelica’, nor achieve world-changing status like the opening song’s title rather hopefully suggests, it is an impressive return from Swim Deep who are starting to show people what they are really capable of.
The album has an overwhelmingly positive and very trippy quality, defined by this acid-drenched sound. Having said themselves that they are novices in the genre, their influences are quite obvious throughout, as they play with classic soul and acid house elements used by the likes of Primal Scream and Happy Mondays, and bring them forward twenty years. This is accompanied by pure synth pop music, influenced by the likes of Depeche Mode and perhaps more recently, The Horrors. For example, ‘Green Conduit’ starts off sweetly and acoustically, before building into a dark, electronic climax. ‘Heavenly Moment’ is appropriately airy and dream-like, while Williams shines on the uplifting ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’, moving in its delicate simplicity.
Williams has said that the band wanted to replicate the “sound of the black hole”, and have indeed created a very space-like quality to the album. This is most obvious on the futuristic ‘Grand Affection’, with its arcade-like synths and deep bassline preceding Williams’ dreamy falsetto on the chorus, and ‘Future Spacemen’, a playful piece of pure psychedelia and quite literally a song of two halves, resembling a rocket’s voyage into space. It starts slowly and quietly with delicate vocals, before ascending into what can only be described as white noise. We are brought out of this by a voice over an intercom, “the part I most enjoy is the sunrise, cause it’s only gonna get lighter”, and playful keys which create a twinkling effect as Williams is the ‘floating hero in space’. Admittedly, there are moments when the band teeter on the brink of self-indulgence and seem to get carried away with themselves; ‘Imagination’ sounds like it could be cut a little shorter, and ‘Laniakea’ risks being forgettable.
However, when they get it right, Swim Deep are truly brilliant. ‘To My Brother’ harks back to 80’s Manchester and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stone Roses album. Its indie pop hooks are impossible not to love, harking back to the Hacienda days. Meanwhile, ‘Namaste’, sees a return to the dream-pop roots of the previous record and provides a major high point. In fact, it is so unashamedly poppy that it could prove annoying, but Swim Deep pull it off marvellously. It is impossible not to be drawn in as Williams coos “Oooooh Namaste”, over delightfully uplifting synth hooks which build to a euphoric chorus. Unbelievably, there is even a hint of ‘Stop’ by the Spice Girls. The highlight is when the tempo drops down into a moment of dreamy reflection, only for us to be snapped out of it by an almighty howl from Williams who leads us into an even bigger final chorus.
With ‘Mothers’, Swim Deep have experimented wildly and brilliantly and shown people that they are willing to push new and exciting boundaries. It is unlikely we will see another band this year take on such a huge transformation in the way that Swim Deep have and they should be commended. While ‘Mothers’ is not the classic album that they hoped to create, they have taken a brave step in a very exciting direction, and this can only be suggestive of a very bright future ahead.
‘Mothers’ is out now via Chess Club/RCA.