Punk Authority, Pete Swanson

Freshly Pressed #3: ‘Life Ends at 30’ by Pete Swanson

Don’t adjust your speakers. And don’t recoil in horror and turn this off instinctively! With ‘Life Ends at 30’ (Oh Christ, did it really?) Pete Swanson has created something truly awe-inspiring.

from the Punk Authority 12″, Software Recording Co., March 2013

Give in to this recording for the full 12 minutes. Endure the white light of its explosive start and the blattering of sonic shrapnel that will bludgeon you, shake you and quite possibly break you. You won’t have an experience like it any time soon.

Though there are a number of artists who have entered similar territory (contemporaries like KPLR, Container, Carlos Giffoni and Russell Haswell or older hands such as Mika Vainio, both solo and with Pan Sonic), I’ve encountered nothing quite like this (1). The intricacy is virtuosic; the physical impact surprisingly addictive.

In an interview with Fact Magazine to mark the release of his previous LP Man With Potential, Swanson talked about his approach: “The kickdrum… really needed to be there on all of the tracks… Everything on the record is edited down from these hour long improvisations on out-of-synch loops and without the kick, the pieces don’t really make sense.” In other words, he approaches the realm of techno from a completely different direction than those who have gone before him. Rather than building on a rhythmic foundation, Swanson starts off with primal chaos; the beat comes later as a means of giving us something to hang onto. I think it’s this reverse engineering that gives the music its power to discomfit and seduce you in the selfsame moment. The grid is there, but the musical elements aren’t locked to it.

“I don’t really like the idea of music being produced for a functional purpose,” Swanson adds. “I would be shocked if someone actually played Man With Potential at a club and people were into it.”

Swanson seems wary of ‘functional’ music. But is music produced for a purpose – in order to dance, in order to provoke fear or suspense in a movie soundtrack, in order to make a quick buck – necessarily negative? This is a question for another time and place. But for now, lose yourself in the realm of Pete Swanson.



(1) …though Vladislav Delay’s Lauma from his 2011 LP Vantaa (Raster-Noton) pushes it pretty close.

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