LISTEN: Pete Swanson Quietus Mix

Former Yellow Swans man and practitioner of rhythmic noise extraordinaire, whose latest EP Punk Authority is released next week, puts us together a mix of "mutations and modernisations" of electronic music - listen below

It might feel as caustic and unpleasant as flushing out your ear canals with battery acid, but there’s a grubbily meditative property to Pete Swanson’s music. His performance in London last month was a brutal 25-minutes, a take-no-prisoners, hit-and-run sort of affair. Swanson set up in the middle of the dancefloor in the manner of psych-noise titans Lightning Bolt, assaulting the crowd packed in around him with wave upon wave of cement mixer sub-bass roar, pebble-dashed drums and percussion that bored into the temples like a pneumatic drill pounding concrete. But it sent an entire basement full of people spinning away towards the venue doors dazed and grinning vacantly, incapable of properly stringing a sentence together for half-an-hour or so afterwards, happily disengaged from reality.

Similarly, 2011’s excellent Man With Potential album – Swanson’s first widely-released full-length since the disbanding of his former noise duo Yellow Swans – elicited states of bliss and calm even amid a cacophany of shorting circuits, overloaded speaker cones and distorted techno rhythms. Last year found him releasing a follow-up on Type – the crushing Pro Style – as well as Sarin Smoke’s Vent, an excellent album of scratchy guitar psychedelia in collaboration with Tom Carter of Charalambides.

New mini-album Punk Authority, released this week through Ford & Lopatin’s Software label, is the most potent distillation of his rhythm-driven noise aesthetic to date, and accurately reproduces the blazing intensity of those recent live shows. Highlight ‘Life Ends At 30’ is a thirteen-minute firestorm of rippling distortion, paired with rickety percussion and slow and sad melodies that thread through the background – the soundtrack to peak-time at one of the most relentless raves on the planet.

Though the techno aspect to his recent music is a clear talking point, Swanson explained when we interviewed him last year that similar interests have been present all along. "If you listen to all of my music, you’ll hear some consistency in sound vocabulary with repetitive melodic patterns, drum machines, frenetic high-end noise," he explained. "The inception of Yellow Swans was based on a desire to make electronic music that was physical and cathartic. Both Gabe [Saloman, former Yellow Swan] and I came out of an avant-hardcore background and all of our friends were getting into techno and IDM, we both found the music to be intriguing, but not impacting. I connect to a lot of that music now more than I did when I was younger, but I’m also more successful at making electronic music that is aggressive and cathartic. Listening back, Man With Potential is the record of mine that is most explicitly informed by Chain Reaction. My current work is maybe more informed by Drexciya. Both are artists/labels that I’ve been interested in since my early twenties. It’s not like I only listen to noise…"

Quietus Mix 75: Pete Swanson’s Mutations & Modernisations by The Quietus on Mixcloud

Indeed, there’s barely a bit of noise in sight during the mix that Swanson has recorded for us to accompany the release of Punk Authority – you can listen to it above. It’s a varied selection of tracks both new and old: Jean Claude Vannier rubbing shoulders with music from Canadian musique concrete composer Bernard Bonnier’s Casse-tete LP; Stuart Argabright’s post-punk/no-wave crew Ike Yard alongside something brand new from Hair Police’s Robert Beatty under his Three Legged Race pseudonym.

"This might be a prog mix. I’m not sure…," says Swanson of the mix. "Vannier, Ribeiro, Khyal and Wakhevitch are all lumped in the prog club occasionally, but I find their work to sound barely related to each other. Vannier seems more aligned with his roots as a chanson arranger in Paris hipped to Pierre Henry. Ribeiro fronts her band of cracked hippies with a voice that rivals Nico and Ono. Karuna Khyal are a mysterious Japanese group (or maybe this record was made via patching together different studio sessions? I have no idea) from the 70s, and there is very little known about them. Supposedly they’re associated with Vanity records… Wakhevitch is a French composer dealing in some unidentified sonic dark arts.

"These tracks are all framed by mutations and modernisations of electronic music. Bonnier twisted disco to his own devices. Norton was a computer music pioneer. Justin Meyers is an old friend who has made some of the best synthesiser and tape music of the last decade. Ike Yard is a foundational industrial techno project. Three Legged Race is from a recent release on Spectrum Spools that has just been killing me."

Quietus Mix 71: Pete Swanson tracklist:

Bernard Bonnier – ‘Italian Junk Food’

Doris Norton – ‘Norton Apple Software’

J. C. Vannier – ‘Les Roi Des Mouches Et La Confiture De Rouse’

Catherine Ribeiro – ‘La Petit Fille Aux Fraises’

Karuna Khyal – ‘Alomoni’

Justin Meyer – ‘Two Windows’

Igor Wakhevitch – ‘Rituel De Guerre Des Esprits De La Terre’

Ike Yard – ‘Loss’

Three Legged Race – ‘Traces Of A Wet Crowd’

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