As time goes on, and more musical styles are introduced, and these genres beget their own sub-genres (which frankly can get a bit ridiculous with their hair-splitting definitions), it becomes increasingly difficult to find something truly unique, something that doesn't eventually remind you of something that you've already heard. At times, the reference points can even get to be too much, with the urge to immediately categorize and/or trace the roots of something new getting in the way of enjoying the music simply for what it is. This is particularly tricky with dubstep, which by now has been configured and reconfigured time and again to encompass a number of different styles, from the teeth-ratting bass of artists like Nero or Bassnectar to bare-boned and ghostly acts such as Burial to crossover-primed folks like James Blake. I think it safe to say, however, that Bristol-based trio Swarms have presented an album that is easy to love for, as previously mentioned, simply being what it is - and their debut record, Old Raves End, is nothing if not endlessly gorgeous.
Old Raves End seduces immediately with the alluring progression of opener T-1000 (which I can't help assuming is titled as such because of its strangely Terminator 2 reminiscent keyboards). It nearly seems as if the goal is minimalism, brandishing a simple 2-step beat awash with soothing synth notes, but the track continues to build until it becomes almost overwhelmingly immersing. This quality is stalwart all through the album, peaking around Polar and Stokes Croft (tracks six and eight, respectively) at which point the music feels like sensory overload with its palpable and exquisite beauty before coming down to earth a bit, anchored by more conventional beats and culminating in the gentle yet bass-driven closer Bison.
While electronic music can quite easily be, perhaps even by default, cold and robotic, Swarms make it sound so damned organic - to the point where the shining moments here are downright evocative; the swelling synths in Chapel's peak, the reverberating guitar in Flikr of Ur Eyes, the buried vocal samples of Hostile (or nearly any given track in the album's tantalizing middle portion for that matter), they can all bring to mind memories pleasant or not of seasons past, times and places, or even specific things remembered that come with some odd sense of anonymity, as if being transported back to a precise moment, or even emotion, being experienced through some hazy manner of recollection.
...I really hope that makes sense, because I just re-read that last bit and thought, "Jesus christ, this is gonna look pretentious as shit."
It's quite foreseeable that many won't be charmed with something so relentlessly ethereal, and that's perfectly understandable; what Old Raves Ends lacks in variety, however, it more than makes up for with its dynamism and sheer beauty. It's tempting to call this album a stone cold classic within its genre, but ultimately that would be a loaded statement. Dubstep, future garage, 2-step, whatever tag you want to apply to this is really irrelevant - what Swarms have produced here is just a gorgeous piece of music, plain and simple.