Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Sawak begin The Bells with Jarosław, an unassuming bassline begins. With off notes brimming over into a sinister tone, a heavier lead guitar joins in. Both guitars move into a shuffling rhythm before heading back into what we can refer to as the hook. Usually content with wide and more vague riffs, the accuracy and tonality that Sawak present even in the first song conveys a sound with more clarity. The guitars sound more on task, and as the song ends the listener feels assured of and engaged with the sound that is to come.
The next song utilises one of Walt Whitman’s most famous poems ‘O Captain, My Captain’. The instrumentation following behind it is lethargic but has a creeping eeriness about it. It turns the poems words into something evil and full of malice as the person reading the poem screams against the backdrop of heavy-handed guitars. An accordion breezes in as an upheaval of guitars gives the voice time to gain a composure once more.
Ethiology brings a mellow guitar with its middle frequencies pushed up high. It works its way through a snakey riff. As with the songs before it, there’s an inescapable sense of unease pulled right from the dark wintery streets of Krakow, where the band reside. A saxophone croons along with the guitar, stumbling into dissonance and detuned notes. But a sense of vigour and structure carries the band along a clearer path than ever before, and the crescendo they reach halfway through is all the sweeter for it. Through screeching feedback the band keep their momentum. A guitar strikes a desperate ascending rhythm as the drums pick up pace. As they burst into a cacophony of crash cymbals the guitar laments in a sorrowful riff. The power emitted is undeniable, with no unnecessary effects or affectations applied, the band conjure this beautiful little piece that conveys a sense of longing and pain. they never stop sounding like a group of talented musicians playing in a room together. And this organic energy carries over into this track especially successfully.
Ice Cream Truck finds a slow, ambling rhythm kept in check by the ever-instructive drumbeat. The toms that hit frequently throughout give the track a different texture. Moaning vocals find their way through to the listener as they are distorted and encoded by effects and filters.
Digital Love finds its rhythm in a revolving bass hook. A snarling guitar breaks the tension with a scraping, incendiary sound. Our speaker comes back naming random objects and concepts. He compares these entities with their digital equivalent as a robotic female voice begins to chime in with him. Just with these two vocal bursts Sawak present a powerful premise to this song, one of the comical and replicative nature of the modern world. And with the backdrop of heavy smouldering guitars it’s hard not to get caught up.
DeGlory begins with a beautiful guitar line that eases in rather than being immediately backed up by a drumbeat. The bass sound is organic, and the band are able to slide more subtly into a rhythm. The switch up in the main guitars notes is beautiful, nothing much changes, but the jilted notes waver in the broad daylight of the mix. A voice cries behind everything, unable to find its way to the front. The parts die away for a moment before the drums bring them roaring back. The melodies are some of the most memorable on the album, choosing a feeling ambivalent anxiety over explicit anger and rage. The voice shrieks for a second, able to approach the very front of the mix. The outfit keep their cool and the rhythm effortlessly, allowing for precise and effective changes in temperature throughout.
Me Too brings our vocalist back for the third time. His voice suits the cold, minor chords that the guitar strikes. A searing lead guitar sends a war cry to the other instruments to push their full force into their delivery and the song bursts into a nicely tempered energy before disappearing fairly swiftly.
A cold, high pitched guitar line dribbles out met with gentle drum-work. The two travel along with each other, the higher notes the guitar reaches shooting out into the cold sparse nature of the mix. The chords it hits are devoid of negative feelings or the cynicism that inhabits some of Sawak’s tracks so far. There are even some notes that have a warmth and happiness to them. A clear, ascending scale brings a Takanaka-esque guitar to the fore. It rings with this beautiful mellow sound as it’s plucked. The song drifts into a heady, worrisome sound as each instrument finds its conclusion.
Rat Soup Kitchen brings a guitar line ducking and diving through a dynamic range of minor notes. The vocalist blurts out over the sinister instrumentation, describing some sordid little space where the listener finds themselves on the menu. The stabs from the bass and kick drum drive the track forward into a beautiful string-work outro, before the song bursts off into another direction. A guitarist scratches indecisively at their own strings before sending notes shooting through the mix like the constant hum of some generator. The schizophrenic nature of the track is jogging but not unwelcome. The voices shouting over the cacophony of guitar and percussion carry an energy from that first section. A saxophone angrily bleats as the song comes to a close.
Swaminarayan brings The Bells to a close. Sitar strings breathe into an unfurling atmosphere. The poise of this conclusive track is incredibly engaging, the band come crashing in and then lay low once again, sending smoking chords out at the start of each four bar loop. The melody being played suddenly drops down into a definitive 3-chord progression and doesn’t stop. The guitars and bass crunching at the lowest rung of the trio, there’s a sense of a farewell interweaved into the track. As if we are watching a procession slowly fade off into the distance. The vocalist joins in halfway toward the end, speaking confidently about God before bringing the band tumbling into a hellish crescendo. Guitars whirl and scratch against the relentless passion of the drum until both can do no more. Whistling feedback brings us to the close.
Sawak continue their upward trajectory with their latest project. What has made the band special in their last two excursions is still brazenly present. But the structure seems more trim and polished. The inclusion of the vocalist was welcome and sought to add another dimension to the band’s wonderfully diverse skill set.
Purchase/listen in full: https://sawak.bandcamp.com/album/the-bells