Instruments of Science and Technology, Music From The Films Of R. Swift

Peter Margasak

By Peter Margasak

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

On the surface this new instrumental project by orchestral pop auteur Richard Swift suggests a split personality — gone are the elaborate vocal harmonies, the baroque arrangements and the indelible Brill Building hooks in favor of analog synthesizer gurgling, Motorik rhythms, some random Vocodorized chants and post-Eno ambience. The reality is that Swift is a true connoisseur of every corner of pop marginalia, and his affection for vintage sounds means that this new dalliance is just the flipside of his instant classic Dressed Up for the Letdown, a record where old-fashioned craft was leavened by songwriting that transcended any specific era.

An orchestral pop auteur embraces his inner Eno.

The pieces on Instruments are decidedly more austere and chilly, yet even within such confines Swift evinces a savvy precision and sharp editorial oversight — as well as some tongue-in-cheek humor (one spoken word snippet helpfully advises, “The best way to relax is to lie down upon your bed and stretch out."); nothing overstays its welcome. From the spacey, environmental drift of “Plan A & Plan B” to the driving Krautrock grooves of “INST” to the funereal dub of “Ghost of Hip Hop (New Apostles Mix),” Swift continues to demonstrate an admirable Catholic sensibility at every turn.