A horrible hack



Year Released: 2015
Format: CD
Label: PonyRec
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Oct 1, 2015
Danish quartet SVIN kick up an interesting racket on this, their third full-length. Venturing into noise-rock blasts, ecstatic free-blowing saxophone and wispy, blurred ambience, among other moods, they get a lot of mileage out of their guitar / sax / horn / drums lineup. Opener "Maharaja" sets up an opening scene of mean-sounding, serrated guitar before the band crash in with drones and tight-controlled riffing. This unfolds into a huge brass lament, the slightly meditative melody lines underpinned by gnarled, insistent guitar and drums. In turn, the guitar gets a slightly raga-flavoured solo in towards the end.

The next two tracks show off a more pensive side to the band's work, "Arktis" beginning with percussionless layered drones through which a veiled melody gradually floats into prominence through repetition: drums come in at the two minute mark and steer the track into whirring activity, briefly derailed by a thicket of freer, more fragmented playing. "Alt" is a long, poised, introspective melody shared out between horn and guitar, close-miced for an intimate focus on the breathy, slightly unstable horn textures. It's eerily beautiful.

SVIN often weave continuity and unity out of leitmotifs and repeated fragments, as in "Maharaja". The guitarist and brass players are attuned to each others' playing, swapping roles and sharing ideas. The combination of this musicianly attention with a wilder strain makes them versatile and interesting. Moving into the second half of the record, though, having acquired a little familiarity with SVIN's soundworld and strategies, there are fewer surprises. The foreboding initial mood of "Fuck John," the flailing sax and guitar lines that mushroom out of it, and its concluding noise-cloud, work well, but after that they don't wring enough interest out of the huffing, buzzy, circular melodies of "Satan" to propel it above the previous highlights. The slow, extended build of "Fede Piger" exposes a lack of focus in the layered brass, and after the cathartic intensities in other songs the long climb to what ends up being a relatively muted plateau makes the journey less satisfying.

SVIN would be a great band to stumble across in a smoky bar far from home and I'd expect them to have a great live presence, judging from this LP. The record sleeve's clunky Eastern borrowings and the in-jokey song titles wouldn't necessarily inspire me to pick up the record in a shop, though. There's good energy and a lot of interesting textures and ideas here. I'd just say that the songwriting could do more to make the most of these strengths.

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