British duo Swayzak take their music very seriously. Last year, as James Taylor and David Brown got their set started, one woman, in desperate need of groupie attention, shimmied up to the front and ended up knocking an effects processor off the table. Brown looked up from beneath his tweed derby, and cursed her through gritted teeth, telling her to step the fuck back. I was thoroughly impressed. After that, Swayzak tore into one of the best live PA sets I've witnessed.
Not that Swayzak is always so earnest. Dirty Dancing is the not-so-serious title for Swayzak's latest chapter in their unrelenting mission to create quality tech-house and electropop. They first made a splash in the underground in 1998 with the dub-infused Snowboarding in Argentina. Capitalizing on their momentum, they spent the next two years perfecting and focusing their skills-- creating music that masterfully cinched the gap between the steady and the swinging house pulses and the minimalist, experimental techno landscape.
I have a big soft spot in my heart for that wonderfully amorphous area between techno and house--simply known as "tech-house." They are the fundamentals, and when done properly, they connect the past with the future. Every track on the act's latest release, Dirty Dancing, has the classic 4/4 meter threading through it, but don't expect any funky bass lines or syncopated R&B beats: Instrumentally, the album sticks to its techno leanings, with straight kick-forward drums and a spare tonal palate (and enough house sensibilities to keep it warm). To tie it all together, Taylor and Brown recruited vocalists Clair Dietrich, Kotai, and Adult's Carl Finlow and Nicola Kuperus.
The first track, "Make Up Your Mind," is the album's most accessible, setting Dietrich's unembellished vocals against deep, techy electronic noises. "The Punk Era," an instrumental, showcases Swayzak's confidence through simple tone choices and beat programming. I could pass on the tracks with the guest male vocals, though. They seem to have too much of an '80s-revival/"Sprockets" vibe that made me want to remove the kitsch so I could enjoy the instrumentation behind it.
If you want a glimpse into the forward curve of electronic music, though, I'd advise picking up Dirty Dancing. Better yet, go see what they're up to in the live setting. Be careful, though--'cause if you get too close to the artists, you just might get reprimanded by Brown and his tweed derby. NICOLAE WHITE