Album Review: Sex Swing – Type II

[Rocket Recordings; 2020]

The UK’s psych-noise scene is in incredibly rude health at present. Luminous Bodies, Casual Nun, The Cosmic Dead and Rainbow Grave are all leading lights in creating pulverising and mesmeric, beautiful and sweaty pandemonium fuelled by uppers and tonic wine. Sex Swing always seemed like something of an anomaly. An underground supergroup initially consisting of members of Mugstar, Bonnacons of Doom, Part Chimp, Dethscalator and others, they ran the risk of being considered as nothing other than an also-ran side project. Their eponymously titled debut album from 2016 was decent without being as wonderful as many reviewers would have you believe. Type II, however, is a total baller of a record that sets a new bar for the scene that inebriates itself.

Guitars cascade like sheets of ice, drums pound like the beating heart of the near-drowned and Dan Chandler summons the vocal spirits of Pete Murphy and Michael Gira to create an entirely compelling, seductive and hypnotic record that feels like it could have been conceived in goth nightclub The Batcave in the early 1980s. It’s an astonishing, breathless album that tantalises as it pulverises and smashes you into the floor with its sheer feral weight of ferocity.

So, how best to start an album marked by the incessant onslaught of noxious din? With complete silence, naturally. The listener is given the respite before all hell breaks loose – be thankful for it. When the first notes of “The Passover” eventually appear in all their skewed, LOUD and twisted glory, like a jump-scare in a no-budget horror movie, you get the feeling that we’re joining the narrative halfway through. No polite introductions, no gentle easing in, we are rushed breathlessly into the netherworld chasm that Type II breathes within. It already feels like a huge leap forward for the band, and it is one that they manage to sustain for the duration of the record.

“Skimmington Ride” starts with chiming guitars and almost tender drums, before Chandler’s voice enters the fray, chanting more than singing. Refrains repeat, with layer upon layer of sound combining to create one gigantic slab of righteous cacophony, like Can and Suicide screwing the ennui out of one another. Keyboards, sax and vocal drawls combine with the guitars to form an incantation to the purity of vicious music, a relentless ode that conjures up feelings of frustration, tension and entrapment. There is no escape from the noise void that Sex Swing dwell in as they revel in the degenerate filth they peddle – and it’s at this point that you realise that they have you entirely ensconced in their world. And you’re grateful for it, too.

Comparisons to Swans are inevitable and entirely justifiable; Type II is a juggernaut of a record, unrelenting in its unabated mission to form an expressway to your skull. Album closer “Garden of Eden – 2000AD” sidles in on an incessant guitar riff that already feels as though it has been in motion for an eternity; Colin Webster’s saxophone fades in and out of focus in the tense opening section, refusing to fall in line with the metronomic monotony being built up; the sax meanders this way and that, teasing at the possibilities of sound whilst the other instruments stay steadfast in their commitment to the path of nefarious repetition. It’s the sound of a band entirely at one, and entirely lost in their own sense of self. And then the song explodes into a cataclysmic maelstrom. Lovely stuff.

Sex Swing are, at their core, an entirely visceral listening experience. Theirs is a sound palette of beautifully grotesque minimal excess. They are, then, somewhat contradictory. They are body horror and cognitive dread. They are what happens when you gleefully decide to swallow both options in the red pill/blue pill conundrum of life.  

And the best thing about Type II? Despite the unrelenting crushing of the sounds throughout, you still get the sense that Sex Swing are holding something back. It’s in that impossible-to-quantify component of music between wild abandon and restraint that Sex Swing exist for the duration of this record. That is an astonishing feat in itself, highlighting the blissful synergy of the players. Inexorably cathartic and pleasurably frustrating in equal measure, you’ll suffer as much as you’re soothed.