During the three-year journey from their first record to their latest, Portland's Swahili have traversed a wide range of territories, both personal and musical. Their self-titled release was an inwards-reaching, noisy and droning exploration into their collective psyches – but on their forthcoming, Swahili shed their mysterious black cloaks to step out in colorful regalia, shimmering with fabric woven from the global pop world. Inspired by cavernous dub, late '70s space disco, and moody post-punk, Swahili's new material is a swirling merge of the band's refined heightened sensibilities towards electronic music and lessons learned from six years of evolution as a musical family.
Listen to "Vestal" on Soundcloud
"Vestal" offers the first peek into Swahili's sound. The track pays joyous homage to the act of dissembling and reintegrating oneself after any great journey into the psyche.
"Reading Philip K. Dick's Valis kind of snapped everything I was thinking about at that time into a thematic grid," explains stunning frontwoman Van Pham. "Like the book, 'Vestal' is very much about the flawed and unsupportable tendency of seeking redemption through another person. Every human being has their misgivings and their problems, but in that, there's a sort of beauty, as well."
Swahili never set out to make a pop record – but they did want the challenge of putting the hypnotic haze of their past into focus. The band spent countless hours delving into the intricacies of their instruments, studying traditional R&B and pop structures to improve their musicianship, and experimenting in their home studio to create the most polished output possible. In stepping up as musicians, they've replaced their seven-minute drones with melodies and song structures that undulate with constant dynamic interplay. Rhythms and synths, wide and varied, find expression in both analog and digital form; patterns form and break so that no two songs sound alike. The crystal clarity of Pham's girlish vocal flurries and diva-like crescendos are the driving force, set atop subtle experiments in cadence and multi-layered harmony.
Swahili's first record conceptualizes one's initiation into his or her true purpose, by way of self-discovery and the use of psychedelics. Their new material pays joyous homage to the necessary fragmentation and reintegration of oneself after any great soul exploration, even if that means dedication to a glittering end product the band themselves never could have predicted.