The first time I listened to Swan Meat, it was sound-tracking some of the worst flight turbulence I’ve ever experienced; the match seemed oddly fitting. Hailing from Washington DC, she has carved a path for herself with little regard for the sobriety of many contemporary electronic music circles. With the aesthetic of a college metal band, her work is part absurdist humour, part epiphanic realisations.
The latest release sees her team up with Japanese producer Yoshitaka Hikawa, delivering four jolting explorations into glitch, ambient, trap and a whole lot more. ‘Knife Splits Ice’ is available as a cassette via Apothecary Compositions, featuring fittingly unsettling artwork by Monia Ben Hamouda.
As a whole the release feels as if it has been crushed and reassembled several times over; the duo have co-opted a startling array of sample sources from the expected found sounds and distortion clad rhythms, to some wickedly contorted pop and R&B references. ‘Nightmare aftercare’ for example is a host of twitching abstractions, breaking into raucous sample butchery in its second half. The approach is DIY and unconcerned with polishing the rough edges, giving it a wild and unhinged feel.
Tin pipe rhythms and warped vocals a recurrent theme. ‘Casual Surgical Slang’ skips and stutters between cleansing pulses of low-end and faltering glitches, while ‘No, no, no’ feels like being spiked with acid at a swingers party. Fractal modulations and heavily processed dulcet tones work in odd contortions beneath the repeated “no bra, no panties” spoken interjections.
One thing that had surprised me is how direct and confrontational the release is, given it is so abstract. ‘& wrench aught of death’ makes a good example of this interplay, breaking into power-synth stabs and tool-shed halfstep after several minutes of faded-afterparty chatter and super-stretched industrial tones.
It takes a great deal of confidence to try and align the different approaches taken on ‘Knife Splits Ice’, and an even greater deal of skill to carry it off so successfully.