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Take a dip in the electronic aether with the new album from Swimming

Do you want that perfect soundtrack for spending your Saturday afternoon pensively staring out into the rain (and possibly quoting “A Farewell to Arms” – you sad, sad individual)?

Are you not hardcore enough for Enya, but still looking for some background tunes for your all-natural, underwater birth?

The new album by Josh Mason – under the moniker Swimming – will satiate these and all of your minimalist, ambient needs – which shouldn’t be too demanding if you’re a minimalist, eh?

Heavily treated guitar dominates the album, but Mason threw some hand bells into the mix, he said. Producers applied all live effects, meaning what you hear on the album is exactly what came out of Mason’s amp — it’s really quite a sonic feat.

Mason peppered a number of found sounds including bird song and laughter throughout the whole CD as well — noises Mason said he recorded on a sojourn to Montana in 2007.

The album opens with the titular track “Bulb Growth.” Overdriven guitar chords with layers of fuzz-induced harmonic overtones wash the song. Warbling pulsations of dissonance play against a constant drone of lower tones as the movement wavers between tension and resolution. Pops and clicks like lo-fi tape hiss skitter between your ears, at first inaudible, but slowly building until the song’s last feedback-tinged chord.

“Crystal Bath” opens with swells of something resembling an organ – a motif carried throughout the song. Tight buzzing tones like the drone strings on a sitar appear at intervals, juxtaposed by what sounds like reverb-drenched droplets of metal landing squarely on bells. Just before the 4 minute mark, the song takes a darker turn. The bell-tones fade and the song leaves the listener with a slowed-down-buzz-saw sound like an oscillating synthesizer.

The album starts to heat up on the fourth track “KLA”. Organ-esque swells dominate again. Layers fall and settle on the song, and listeners can hear what sounds like a day in the park faintly in the background. A few laughs at the end, and the track ends abruptly.

If rock and roll has demonic lyrics when you play it backward, “Namesake Bath” must be a hymn when it’s played forward. Most every note in the song sounds like Mason reversed it. The backward guitars sound like violently crescendoing violins from Venus. This track features the most prominent melodic motif on the CD – a short tune that appears dozens, maybe even a hundred times, in slightly varied iterations over the course of the song.

‘Growth’ lacks a lot of the aspects that makes music “popular.” It’s not particularly catchy, the form eschews typical song-structure and there’s nothing to sing along to (it’s not only that there are no lyrics, the few really tangible melodies that exist are simple and relatively forgettable).

Nonetheless, Swimming’s offering won’t alienate many listeners. It marries well the electronic aesthetic and a Cagian (as in John Cage) sensibility which results in the kind of music one might desire on a lazy day while laying in bed.

Mason also plans to release a Swimming tape featuring two new 30 minute songs inspired by traditional Japanese monastic music, he said. Anyone interested can find more information on Swimming and Mason’s other projects at joshmason.info and sunshine.joshmason.info.

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