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Giant Swan returned to the clubs in 2021 pretty much as soon as it was possible. While the booming speakers and raving atmosphere of the live scene was missing, the Bristolian duo still made good on their visceral and uncompromising sound with the remotely produced Do Not Be Afraid Of Tenderness EP. Now back out in the field and in the studio together, they honour low end frequencies in a bass heavy EP that captures the intensity of their live sets.
The four to the floor rhythms are far more pronounced on Fantasy Food than on previous releases, as Giant Swan distill their abrasive unpredictability into a set of raw techno. ‘Sugar And Air’ wastes no time getting started, quickly settling in with hyperventilating samples and throbbing beats, its molten bassline firing off like a car engine running on caramel. ‘Abacuses’ is straight up dancefloor weaponry, with guttural vocal manipulations building the tension. Meanwhile, groaning vocals are morphed into sweeping string-like sounds on the title track, a break from the beats but not from the vicious electronics as synths are stretched to elastic lengths. Dubbed a “4/4 weirdo techno banger”, ‘RRR+1’ pounds on the skull, with panting breaths racing against the uptempo sonic combat.
As dark and lacerating as it all might sound, there’s an element of healing put into this EP, achieved through moving to the incessantly hammering rhythms. That is to say: Fantasy Food is built for a physical response, and Giant Swan have brought the heat once again with headbanging, raving, electrifying techno to sink the teeth into.
In the below Q&A, KECK label manager Selpic Sid quizzes the duo of Robin Stewart and Harry Wright about the music on the new EP:
There's some pretty hard and uncompromising tracks on this release, was that intentional or just how things came out?
R: we definitely had the intention of writing music that we felt was more 'focussed'; I suppose in that regard the tracks came out more uncompromising, certainly pertaining to how they fit more into a 'techno' sensibility of structure and timbre. having played a few of them out in DJ sets they definitely serve as more functional than some previous releases, but I like the notion that they're uncompromising. I feel we struggle to compromise our vision of dance music and this EP is our most direct instruction to the dancefloor.
H: Yeah we wanted to write something that doesn’t fuck about. Direct and intentional. I think there is a comfort to be had in music that is clear about it's intentions from the get go. We wanted to capture the energy of our live show in these tracks that aim to be as intense as they are playful.
Was there any particular records you were listening to around the time of making this that informed the direction at all?
R: Personally there wasn't a massive amount of deviation from my usual listening habits that influenced the writing of the tracks. I would say I was informed once again by the tide of being in and out of clubs post-pandemic; a sense of drive and propulsion toward a euphoric release; but more to the sounds of voices and moving gears rather than Reese synths and cheesy breakdowns. When we were in the studio mixing the record we listened to a lot of Suede, Kate Bush and Annie Hogan.
H: The way artists like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel would use the Fairlight sampler I found to be a big influence on the manipulation of samples and voices on this record. I like it when you can hear exactly how an original sound was manipulated and even work backwards from the final result, trying to work out what the original sound was. I believe using simple and obvious methods of sound manipulation helps open up the process to the listener, which to me feels empowering and inclusive. There is something to be said about a piece of music sounding untouchable in the mystery surrounding it's making. However, what I feel what speaks to me more is using these simple techniques. By hearing, for example the sound of a pitched up/down vocal sample, you are hearing the result of that sample's journey in reverse. You cant help but think about the original sound when you hear the form it takes after being manipulated. The Art Of Noise and again Kate Bush provide good examples of this. I was also listening to Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance soundtrack as a reference point for music informed by dance, and dance informed by music.
Is there any over-arching theme tying the Fantasy Food tracks together?
R: Not super specifically - we both found the idea of fantasy food really funny - like imagining all these ridiculous dishes and just keeping the energy surreal and fun. “Sugar & Air” is the contents of a Big Mac bun... Visually, Harry developed a wonderful dichotomy between acts of worship and clubbing which is something we've been exploring thematically for some time. the artwork is once again derivative of ecclesiastic and unilateral cultural references that are contorted to fit our vision.
H: Yeah I mean fantasy food, and the symbols in the artwork are all a reference to health. Specifically physical health in relation to clubbing. The six phrases on the back cover are each taken from grace plates that were on show in the Bristol Museum. I thought it would be appropriate to change some of the words in these prayers to act as a sort of pre-club ritual of worship. Giving thanks for health and physicality before putting that all to the test when you enter a club with loud music, flashing lights and...narcotics.
How do you feel this EP relates to the most recent KECK release Do Not Be Afraid Of Tenderness?
R: DNBAOT was a deeply personal record that addressed themes of loss, grief and love. Fantasy Food is more centred around remedy and health; the music is propulsive and outward facing - a means by which to exercise and expound feelings whilst acknowledging the progression from more hedonistic (KECK001) and reflective (KECK002) states. the artwork once again uses symbolism to refer to the overarching themes we considered whilst writing and mixing the record; a knife and fork as well as the rod of asclepius. Harry has a once again nailed the design and presentation.
H: Where DNBAOT focuses more on spiritual and mental health, Fantasy Food focuses on physical health as a result of spiritual and emotional care first addressed in the last record. The record does aim to continue a narrative of self care but this is very much about employing lessons learned in self care in to the real world now. and the effects these cna have on our physical health.
Are these tracks closer to what you're doing in your live show currently, or is the studio creations and live performances still a very separate thing?
R: In some ways yes; the live set is very full on and 'functional' in a dancefloor setting, whereas our studio productions remain more adjacent to dub and experimental pop music. We're providing fodder for DJs with Fantasy Food - disruptive dance tracks.
H: Yeah I think they're similar in energy to the live show but with a lot less going on. If the live show is a jungle then Fantasy Food is a maze garden. Natural resources manipulated in a way to create a journey with a clear route.
There's still a distinctly human element here with the use of voices, albeit sometimes just a guttural sound which is looped. Are the voices you guys? Samples? Synth generated? In my head? Rather not say??
R: This record actually has the most unorthodox treatment of voices yet. My voice is on a couple of tunes, and we've sampled more intonation than actual vocal ranges on others. “Boasting” is probably the first time we've chosen not to use vocals on a more functional track. The human element is ubiquitous with our approach to the music we make. In the live setting, the humanity is laid out in an almost uncomfortable way, whereas on record we're able to use the versatility of vocals in a more diverse way.
H: See answer to second question hehe!
- Giant Swan
- 55 Year Old Daughter (Extended Mix) Limited Etched White Label
- Catalogue Number
- Release Date
- January 10, 2020