Music Reviews
Entertainment Is Over If You Want It

Swords Project Entertainment Is Over If You Want It

(Arena Rock) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

The Swords Project are a six member "indie-prog" outfit emerging from Portland, Oregon. They formed in late 1999 as a result of informal collaboration between two separate bands The Icebreak and Slower Than. Entertainment... is their first full-length album, following an eponymous EP as a seven-piece. They've variously expressed admiration for artists as disparate as Cornelius, Will Oldham, Radiohead, Queens of The Stone Age, Iron and Wine and Spoon, dubbed themselves "the hired assassins of rock" (due to a notion that they could be a backing band for songwriters hoping "to elaborate on their sound"), and supported Stephen Malkmus. Their press bio contained a quote from Gang of Four's Dave Allen hailing them as "supremely inventive". Clearly not the easiest bunch to pigeonhole then...

As for the record itself, I've lived with it for several weeks and I can't emphasise enough the importance of repeated listening in this instance. Initially, Entertainment... appears very cerebral, perhaps to the point of restriction, but every fresh play unveiled a new texture, melody or song structure that kept my interest from waning. The seven tracks here are elaborate pieces, devoid of definition. While they're unlikely to dent FM radio play lists severely, The Swords have an impressive knack of recalling everything I've listened to during the previous day at the same time, without providing easy reference points. The opening 01 sounds something like Boards of Canada's Over the Horizon Radar mixed by Telefon Tel Aviv to soundtrack shopping malls at international airports during bleak midwinter's at Six AM. City Life starts with shades of Mush Records' signings Clue to Kalo's organic electronica before exploding with a crescendo worthy of Elbow's Asleep in The Back. Vocalist Corey Ficken's mannerisms recall prime Benjamin Gibbard and his lyric's about "exploding models and red figurines" and " a catwalk moving into a sea of pills" aren't exactly shabby either.

MD11 initially seems like the mid-point between Gibbard's Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service projects, before a Cocteau Twins -esque guitar veneer reveals itself, while Cocktails and Shuttlecocks contains some of the ornate feel of The Cure's criminally underrated Bloodflowers beneath the bleeps. Elsewhere, Audience of One contains the sound of Philosopher's Stone in a windswept state and Mogwai's heaviest barrage disguised in a ten minute-plus epic recalling Departure Lounge. It's as much of a double edged sword as this description entails (awful pun admitted), but it's closer to masterpiece than monotony. Minute long snatches of Immigracion could be a painfully tasteful soundtrack for a Dawson's Creek variant, while the closing New Shapes features traces of a warmer Broadcast playing in the ruins of The Cure's Untitled with a Sparklehorse microphone. Its lyrics about "thinking only in terms of structure" seem apt for this review.

To abandon Entertainment... at the first hurdle would be foolish, because The Swords Project have created some of the more intriguing noises I've heard recently beneath these layers of sound.