Discodeine – Swimmer (2013)

It’s been a peculiar week where I’ve not felt particularly inspired by anything. Following on from Burial’s surprise EP release has been pretty tough for me and I haven’t consumed anything since that’s really caught me in the same way. Luckily, French House duo Discodeine sort of made their way onto my radar with their sophomore releaseĀ Swimmer.

I know that in the past I’ve been hesitant to tackle Electronic Dance Music but sometimes it’s just so insatiable and catchy that’s it’s difficult to deny, especially when it comes in a package as meaty yet compact as this 30 minute groover. Opener “Seabox”cruises in on a bed of pattering percussion and thick synth lines, only to be followed up by breathy vocals and faux piano.

“Why eat fresh meat”

He whispers enigmatically, although one of the clearer lines that cut through the mix. It’s a swirling, sub-tropical amalgamation of groovy, simplistic textures and it sets out the structure of the album to follow reasonably well. Follow up “Dry By” strips things back a bit more, paring the instrumentation right back to the synths and making the vocals even more breathy. It’s a rising and falling tide, working up into flurries of excitable sound at the peak of the choruses as the sung aspects come into their own, but keeping things low key and limited when they’re less impassioned. There’s lots of bleary electronic rushes of sunny noise and wiggling synths and it’s all painfully Summery.

It segues beautifully into lead single “Aydin”, which decides not to cruise anymore and set out a definitive and strong rhythm in the drum machines and piercing violin strings and deep, flanged synth basslines. It’s got an inherent darkness but also a grander scope than the preceeding tracks that makes it decidedly more ambitious and empowered, forcing its way against the current. Contrast this against “Dive Wet”, which somehow manages to juxtapose a Microhouse piece against the tumult of electronica we just went through. Once again its spoken word delivery and creeping melodies make for a dark and brooding atmosphere, shuffling along at an almost awkward pace but keeping just enough structure to propel it onward, despite the repetitive lyrics.

Thus largely ends the reign of the vocal lead tracks; much of the rest of this pretty short release is focused on the melodies alone. “Slip Slow” reaffirms the dark intents of “Dive Wet” with its drone currents and syncopated drum flurries amidst a creeping, minimal electronic riff, reflections bobbing and rippling in the wake of some dark ship. Fortunately this streak is interrupted by the relatively more jovial “Hydraa” which finally comes along to shine some light through the lingering dark spell with repetitious, solid beats and fluffy synth riff clouds. The cool “Shades of Cyan” is positively Hawaiian with its crooning guitars and excitable percussion, a bright and shimmering piece that’s as relaxing as it is danceable.

It’s hard to believe this sweet little piece moves into the 4/4, club ready “Liquid Sky” with such ease; it’s such a 90’s throwback track it sounds like I’m listening to the soundtrack of Wip3out or something, especially during the middle with those sawblade whines and the huge reverb and not to mention the female coos and waahs that permeate the multiplicity of textures it tumbles into in its heavy closing moments. The sweet 26 second interlude of “Vox” is an odd decision since it throws a glowing drone into the space between two rather driven tracks, but closer “Plum Blossom” more than makes up for this oversight. Flanging those weird backing synths once again it ties in all the delicious sounds of the album into one space, creating a tropical, Hawaiian vibe whilst also marrying it with somewhat darker and more ominious sounds in the more oppressive beats. It remains largely upbeat though with its fun 303s stuffed into the background and the even livelier drums and cymbals thrust above.

As always I’m pretty terrible when it comes to talking about music like this, but what I can tell you is that it’s fun, cheeky, occasionally propped with limited but compositionally useful vocals and nicely but not cheesily simplistic. It’s got a decent production quality and sometimes repetitive but pretty sweet tropical beats, perfect for these Wintry times.