The Swords Project
When I first picked up this CD, I was struck at the simple package design. On the wrap-around liner notes, there are simply a herd of galloping unicorns drawn in sort of a loose way that caught my attention. All the group and song information is scrawled down in sort of the same dizzy writing, and although one might have the tendency to think "my pretty pony" when looking at the soft colors of the disc, that's really where the similarities end.
OK, so they don't completely end there, actually. Despite their name, The Swords Project is an eight piece band out of Portland who create post rock music that is just a bit pretty despite their large group size and somewhat intimidating name. It's beautiful and somewhat soothing (even though there are moments that rock out) and while all kinds of comparisons to other groups could be drawn, I'd say that they sort of remind me of Mogwai mixed with a bit of Godspeed You Black Emperor. There are dual drummers, violins, shimmering guitars, keyboards, and some very nice atmospheric effects. Over the course of 4 songs and 28 minutes, this EP does what every good EP should do, which is basically whet your appetite for their sound until they have a new release.
One of the things the group does that's a bit out of the ordinary is that they include vocals on some of the tracks. While they're definitely not at the forefront of the mix (most of the time, they're more like an added sound element), they work well within the context of the tracks. The epic of the album is the opening track entitled "Shannon's Wedding Song" that clocks in at nearly 10 minutes long. After an intro of strummed guitars that build up through a slight haze of keyboard before a slight crescendo and break. The track then goes back into the same quiet theme and builds up again (this time with strings and the whole ball of wax) to a grand release before dropping off into the haze again.
The second track "The New Assassin" adds both a piano and vocals to the mix, and probably is the most straightforwardly rocking track on the disc. It rumbles through sort of a stuttering rhythm, and instead of full-out blasting the feedback or guitars, the group again shows considerable restraint and the track comes out the better for it. The final two tracks again build slowly out of rather quiet beginnings, but reach very nice moments respectively. On this debut release, the group shows a ton of promise, and I for one can't wait to hear what they do in the future. It's orchestral without being overwhelming and subtle without being boring, plus you can buy it cheap on the Absolutely Kosher website.