Both with Yellow Swans and now in his solo career, the key to Pete Swanson’s work is a mischievous distance. His Portland days involved dozens of CD-Rs under myriad alterations to the Yellow Swans (a real iTunes organization nightmare), and he represented himself on his 2011 solo LP Man With Potential with a mop. And that continues on his new EP Punk Authority, walking away from the camera on the cover while inching closer with frustration to traditional EDM structures in the midst of the noise.
At times, it feels as if you could pull an equally strong straight-techno EP out of the distorted muck that Swanson pours over Punk Authority; that itch to figure out what’s inside the ooze is the strength of the set, an ear-burning challenge to what you expect from these methods. The title track builds a standard bass groove (albeit way in the red), but then rather than a melody trills out what feels like random squeals of high-end. Later, the bursting “C.O.P.” is something straight out of the fever dreams of an overdosed victim on the dance floor.
That said, as strong as the urge to clean the beats up is the endorphin rush of the brain-scraping abrasion itself. Sure, there’s something haunted and angelic going on throughout the 13-minute epic “Life Ends at 30”, but the crumbling distortion that opens the track is enough to shake off the thickest rust. As the track progresses, the overbearing noise fades a bit, devolving into a few different synth loops, revealing more of that reachable core. The imp that he is, though, Swanson would rather leave you at a pile of rubble than a revelation. But when the ride pumps the adrenaline like this, you don’t mind knowing it’s going to end at a wreck.
Essential Tracks: “Punk Authority”, “Life Ends at 30”