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Swimming Ecstatics International Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Nottingham space-rock five-piece knows its way around a giant chorus or two.

Mike Diver 2011

Within most competent but relatively uninspired bands there’s often a fantastic outfit desperate to break out. The listener can hear flashes of it, catching glimpses of greatness through the cracks between layers of heard-it-all-before. Nottingham’s Swimming are one such group – a five-piece whose songs take flight to raise their choruses to commendable highs, whose melodies are both powerful and pliable… whose melange of space-rock, psychedelia and prog, coupled with cliché-blunted lyrical hooks, manages to come across as both pleasingly distinct and oddly debilitated.

The good is very clearly presented. Song structures are bold and unafraid of stepping into territories other more fashion-conscious combos might baulk at – witness the 80s Genesis/Yes stylings of In Ecstatics, a track where keys don’t so much sparkle as blind from a full league away. There’s an itchy zeal to Sun in the Island, this collection’s lead single – the electronic squeals make fine bedfellows for the droning, almost post-rock guitars and John Sampson’s spotlight-hogging vocal, which zips and spins across the mix like a Catherine Wheel come loose. All Things Made New (Stand) walks a middle ground between Doves and Mercury Rev without straying from its message: "Living for our dreams / Nothing like it seems."

But the band’s dreams aren’t as original as they might believe. Idiosyncrasies appear both artificial and half-inched from a wealth of contemporaries: MGMT, Muse, Phoenix and many more. At times constituents are assembled without the song’s overall performance being considered, so buzzes and tinkles, zaps and hums litter the mix without doing anything to propel it forwards. Closer Team Jetstream, step forward – in these five minutes, there are suggestions of something massive about to happen, but the track can never reach maximum velocity as it’s weighed down by so much digital detritus. There’s something Kasabian-flavoured about Mining for Diamonds, and Beat Beat of Your Heartbeat tries to relocate the ethereal indie splendour of Mew to the British midlands – but since the Danes do this sort of thing so well already, one has to wonder why Swimming are attempting to approximate the effect.

Intriguingly there’s no real mention made of Swimming’s 2009 debut, The Fireflow Trade, in the accompanying press information. That was a mixed affair too, but one that tended towards post-rock motifs for pigeonhole management. The cynic could say Swimming have altered their style to cater to mainstream tastes; the more sympathetic listener, that they’ve simply evolved into a rather different proposal. But whatever the answer behind this development, it’s academic, as In Ecstatics proves to be only half the album it thought itself capable of being.

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