After The Swan Thief released their first record, simply entitled I, in 2013, the band is now back with its second album. Any ideas on how you could name a follow-up for I? You’re absolutely right, it is indeed called II. This might not be the most innovative idea ever, but it is still fitting.
I AM FROZEN.
As it still is winter on the northern half of our beautiful planet earth, this phrase matches the season when II was released. But you might also feel frozen while listening to it. As the music takes you away, you will be unable to speak, unable to move, and thus have to focus on the landscape that The Swan Thief are creating. Somewhat cold, but on the other hand warm and cozy, just like an autumn evening. Golden leaves lying on the ground, whilst the golden sun above shines bright, before ultimately beginning to set. Then, a fresh breeze of cold wind encasing your body. This fresh breeze is the voice of singer Gabe Ulibarri.
II starts with “Aureate“, a dreamy, lucid and beautiful beginning based on clean guitars, organic piano playing and some strings that resound slightly in the background. And the heartwarming voice of Ulibarri carries on. All this almost feels like a dream-trip over the clouds, possessing a mood very similar to Alcest‘s Shelter. This energetic track is soon supported by slow-paced, distorted guitars and more powerful drumming. The low tempo very much fits into the sostenuto mood and builds up to the end of the song. In fact, II starts with six and a half minutes of pure dreamy ambiance that instantly gives you goosebumps and immediately makes you wanna hear the song once more. With a fluent transition the next song, which is way more driving, starts. Up until now the band has already shown diversity, with a well-balanced, dynamic compositional work, as well as a good variation in the tempi.
A RAINBOW FULL OF BEAUTY
There’svirtually no need to analyze this piece of music. Just settle down and receive it, as it is way more about the feels than the theory, and since you can’t contain feelings within theory, this record might sound very different to everybody. As many post-rock bands, The Swan Thief also do work a lot with repetitive riffs and melodies. These build up and break down, all while being supported by the other instruments. For example, the drums have a leading function at times (“Moon Or Man“) and thus keep things interesting. The music speaks its own language, that is… well, simply beautiful. While the vocals come in unexpectedly, they always stay within the mix, while patiently rounding it off.
“Gull“ is not in need of many words, but when the vocals come in, it is strongly reminiscent of the way they turned up in “Moon Or Man“. Kinda surprising, yet still matching and thoroughly supportive. It’s really not that The Swan Thief need to have vocals in their songs; they simply polish the diamond, reaching an emotional peak in “Gull“. The last three song all start with minimally played drums. Whether it is only the ride cymbal or an ordinary groove, both works out brilliantly. This might sound unexciting, but on the other hand it works becauseof its simplicity. Again, the brightness in the sound shows as the other instruments come in. Warm, heartful and bright sounding guitars, backed by an also warm-sounding bass. The mix perfectly emancipates every single instrument so that tiny details shine through it, like the sun through rainy clouds. The result? A rainbow full of beauty.
Both “Gull“ and “Cold Calm“ are patient, slow-paced songs. They focus more on ambiance and simple melodies and less on a driving groove. It seems as if they would drift and flow over into the magnificent ending of II. Indeed, The Swan Thief took their time to end up their sophomore record. “Edax Mare“, which is Latin for ‘devastating (or greedy) sea’ is by far the longest track II. In fact, this song reflects perfectly on what happened on the foregoing ones. Bound in almost 15 minutes. “Edax Mare“ starts off patiently with a very If These Trees Could Talk-esque feeling to it. Repetitive riffs are piling up while the drums are keeping the drive going. A change between vocal and instrumental parts keeps the balance; the song just plays. Even if there is nothing new, it does not become boring at all. The music builds up, breaks down and takes the recipient on its very own journey. And this journey might very well be different for everybody.
If you are not into post-rock, extended song lengths and repetitive yet innovative, evolving riffing, you might go wrong with The Swan Thief. But if you are a fan of lovely, passionate and beautiful music… you will love II. Take your time and listen to it in its entirety. You won’t regret it!
Notable Tracks: “Aureate”, “Moon Or Man”, “Gull”
FFO: Gates, Alcest, If These Trees Could Talk