A decade is an awful long time in dance music, let alone any music. Cast your mind back to 1997. The Prodigy were fattening the land, while even the Chemical Brothers were in the first fruits of youth.
Swayzak, too, were only just beginning – but clearly feel a decade on that now is the time to present a more mature side to their musical development. With James Taylor returning from paternity leave it’s a pertinent time to take action, and they do this in the form of a carefully planned sixth album, calling on collaborators old and new. In the former camp, Richard Davis, Roger 23 and Francesco Brini take guard, with the new blood represented by Cassy and Les Fauves.
It’s Cassy who makes the first move, with the heartfelt lyric of the opening track “all my thoughts go out to you”, that gets beneath the skin. The duo’s production sets the scene, dark beats and clouded synthesizers giving a moody inner city backdrop.
It doesn’t let up until Claktronic takes more of a child’s eye view of the world, a welcome lightening of the mood. Yet it seems Swayzak are at their most effective when casting deep rhythms and coolly dark loops. Cassy is again at the heart of the best of these, the magnificent Smile And Receive that gradually gathers itself and picks up considerable momentum as she sings the pleading chorus. Silent Luv, too, has a majestic, assured quality that represents the duo at their best.
If there’s a criticism of the record it can be found in So Cheap, where the austere landscapes are featureless, the melodic material in short supply. This is symptomatic of the album’s weaker moments, where the dark clouds have no defining characteristic and the music looks in on itself to the detriment of the listener.
If you can overlook the moments where Swayzak appear to be gazing too inwardly, this is an album whose best tracks would grace Leftism. But perhaps that’s its biggest problem, an approach that takes from the successful dance albums of the 1990s rather than trying anything radically new.