24 Jun 2021

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Swallow the Rat - Album Review: Leaving Room

28 Apr 2020 // A review by Callum Wagstaff
Swallow the Rat sound like if a tornado became sentient and could communicate that it just wants to shoot the shit and have a chat.

Swallow the Rat formed in Auckland in 2017 when Texan guitarist Brian Purington moved to New Zealand and started jamming with Sam Vercoe. Since then they've opened for bands like Sebadoh, No Age and Gang of Four and played shows around both New Zealand and the US. This I know because their website lists every gig they've played since forming; a cool little feature for a band website.

Signing to Shifting Sounds records and enlisting the help of producer/engineer Nick Abbott, who has worked with the likes of Robert Plant and indie darlings Foals, they have just come out with their debut full-length album titled Leaving Room.

Leaving Room feels like a mission statement for the band. As the debut album it nails the job of establishing Swallow the Rat's sound and aesthetic. Any Pixies fan will find it really endearing and fans of noise rock, no-wave, punk, post punk and even seminal goth records will find this album well worth ingesting and this band well worth keeping on their gig watch list.

The MVP of the Swallow the Rat sound is the way Purington coerces the guitar. It ducks and dives around expertly placed semitones and modal character notes all while leaving an after image of distorted colours and textures.

Rapid tremolo picking in songs like Hey Yeah and Bird of Ill shed bits of sonic shrapnel into the corners of the brain canvas
and then come back in new contexts like the mandolin-esque parts of Echoes of a Tide. Listening to some of the riffs and melodies feels like a wine tasting.

Vercoe's vocals are reminiscent of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. There are moments of compelling delivery, like the rambling stream-of-consciousness of Chromos or the escalating urgency of "my spirit slowly descends" in Billy. For ten songs of speak singing though, they begin to lack dimension.
If as a listener you can think of the lyrics as a driver inside Purington's haunted chassis of a guitar sound, you can begin to feel the full emotional vehicle of the music.

The album falls apart a bit at the close-listening level and I think maybe 8 tracks would have been the sweet spot. First World would be on my list of darlings to kill. Even though I love that massive, bleeding assault of a bass sound I think the song as a whole didn't bring as much to the album as the others did. I'd love to hear that bass sound used in the next album on a more essential track.

I feel a little uncomfortable about judging Leaving Room as a reviewer sitting in front of it with all my focus. I really think it's an excellent album for a morning coffee with a cigarette and I feel that music in general is best enjoyed as part of a larger experience. In a gig setting this album has the perfect cohesion for a brain shattering set. The songs have the strength to be tethered to memories of first kisses, drunken fights and falling down flights of stairs.

The best albums in the world stand up to both passive and active listening. This debut did such an earth blowing good job at defining itself in the former that the sophomore effort from Swallow the Rat could be something totally mind shattering and timeless in both categories. In the meantime, I'm going to add Leaving Room to my recreational listening and spice up my life.
Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Swallow the Rat

Swallow the Rat formed in late 2017 when guitarists Brian Purington and Sam Vercoe began jamming with drummer Hayden Fritchley. Will Waters (Kerretta) was recruited on bass and in early 2018 the band recorded 3 songs with acclaimed engineer Nick Abbott at Auckland's Northwestern Recorders, all of which charted on New Zealand's Alt Charts and Student Radio, along with receiving air play on KOOP (Austin, TX) and DKFM (CAN). Mid 2018 saw Stephen Horsley take over bass duties and a NZ tour commenced.

In 2019 a self-titled 7" was released which coincided with several showcase performances at SXSW in Austin, TX. A string of shows across New Zealand followed, including opening for No Age, Gang Of Four and Sebadoh. Subsequently, they signed to US label Shifting Sounds.

March 2020 they performed at New Colossus Festival in NYC as part of a US tour. Meanwhile back in NZ the singles Bird of Ill and Cold Moon both went to #1 on the 95bFM Top Ten. 24 April 2020 saw the global release of the LP Leaving Room.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Swallow the Rat


Year: 2021
Type: EP
Leaving Room
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Swallow the Rat
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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