With original studio boffin James Taylor on hiatus to raise a family in the south of France (where, in fact, Loops from the Bergerie was recorded), on this tour Swayzak will field fellow founding member/production wiz David Brown (computer, synth), Richard Davis (vocals), Kenny Paterson (bass), and Francesco Brini (drums). Those of you hoping for some pasty white blokes staring stoically into Apple laptops--sorry. You'll have to close your eyes and pretend.
Swayzak are the rare electronic act that have earned the cognoscenti's respect and sell records and play large venues. They've collaborated with reclusive Detroit techno genius Theorem and placed a track on the lab-coated laptop extravaganza known as Clicks & Cuts 3, yet their tracks also get played by trendy electroclash DJs and appear in Motorola cell-phone adverts. While all four Swayzak albums have remarkable peaks and troughs, the group deserve credit for infusing accessible, danceable tech-house tracks with the kinds of textural and rhythmic subtleties that make fellow producers' mouse-clicking fingers get all moist.
Loops from the Bergerie represents Swayzak's back-to-the-country, organic mode of music-making. On too many numbers, Brown and Davis sing in flat, unaffected ways that make Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and New Order's Bernard Sumner sound like Otis Redding. It's a grievous aesthetic error, but fortunately it doesn't completely torpedo Loops. Swayzak still deliver the tech-house goods with reliability and panache.
Dubby techno cut "Bergerie" thankfully eschews vocals, stressing instead ambrosial synth swirls and an indelible three-note bleep motif. The hypnotic "Jeune Loup" places morose oboe-like drones atop galloping, glitchy techno. The sibilant, Latinized shuffle of "8080" employs castanet accents, delicate melody, ruminative Calexico-like guitar, and Novocained female muttering by Mathilde Mallen.
The disc's last two tracks spotlight Swayzak's vaunted range. The stomping party monster "Speak Easy" is bass-heavy schaffel techno at its cheekiest. (Motorola wisely chose this attention-grabber for its TV spot.) And then, for a total change of pace and tone, there's the slow, trippy, acidic synth growl of "The Long Night," which sounds like an electric boa constrictor methodically uncoiling for five minutes. Mallen's sexy French words and Paterson's probing bass line put the cherry on this erotic downtempo confection. Overall, pretty damned respectable for a band named after Patrick Swayze. DAVE SEGAL