I’ve been aware of Swab for a few years now, he has (as producer or maestro) been spinning or producing some great stuff for Aarhus based groups – most notably on the new Manus Nigra album – an ambitious return to the trip hop and R&B of the 90s with a modern twist. Swab’s full-length album is a psychotically ambitious piece of wax (or digital information depending on how you eat your music) that plays like a movie straight out of his own somewhat twisted mind.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons instantly to DJ Shadow’s “…Endtroducing”, a game changing album that brought scratch laden break-beat cut ups and crate digging melancholia to the masses nearly 15 years ago. Swab manages to keep in the same vein as Shadow but rely less on completely borrowed or stolen snippets to create his audio palette for you. The album opens with the ‘throwing in everything but the kitchen sink’ sound collage of “listen Up!” – complete with spoken instructional monologues, chopped up break-beats and ‘cut and paste’ style approaches (complete with William S. Borroughs, the godfather of cut-ups making an appearance).
Swab comes out of his corner in earnest with “When We Come Around – feat. Tonny Flex”, a well metered and executed rap joint that could be referencing Dr. Octagon and at the same time touches of Nu Metal and Goth Swab definitely has an eclectic palette to paint from.
“Make Up My Mind – feat. Blu Rum 13” is an early highlight with an interesting “state of the nation” rap backed by More Kool Keith meets Mos Def style flow. I’m starting to see some bubbles in the paint though in Swab’s overall presentation on the album – as often I feel that the mix (on good headphones at least) tends to be a bit heavy at times and distracts one from the actual message or performances on the “song” itself. The counterpoints of his steadily flowing river of melody is structured and composed well, however on tracks like this and others further down the line, it tends to wear me down a bit. I’d like a bit more bass too.
A few of the ‘mostly Swab’ comprised tracks tend to meander a bit without the reference point of an MC or singer to play to. Not that there aren’t any hooks, but tracks like “Rainy Dayz”, “this sad World” and “Time is Calling” are a little un memorable compared to other ones that feature someone else more heavily.
Some other highlights are “Nothing But Love” (feat. Marc Balle Hansen on vox), a peculiar mix of cabaret coupled with a slightly Goth element courtesy of the expressive baritone of Marc’s vocal performance – and “Twilight Time” (feat. Mac Lethal) which is a classic break-beat laden hip-hop performance. I would be glad again for a bit more stereo panning on the drums and a touch more lower frequencies to make it pop out on some good headphones or speakers. It is Urban after all…
My fave on this album is “Music Machine” – which starts out very Superbad porno, and ends up like a 60s go-go spy soundtrack, like early Portishead on meth in a dub-step club, I’d love to hear this track the next time I get fucked up and try and jog home when I’m pissed.
The close of the album, “Evelyn – feat Anders Ladegaard & Copywrite” might be the most radio ready track here. It’s almost like a torch ballad from the closing credits of a superhero flick, yet explodes in a modern update of the Shadow Break-beat formula. It leaves a good taste in the listener’s mouth.
Panorama Playground is a heady trip through the mind of Mr. Swab. It’s very well thought out and flows as an album should. At times it wanders slightly off course, but it is supremely evident that Swab can write, produce and assemble a great track that both has a view to the past, present and future or urban music. It’s never sloppy or careless, and any listener could tell it’s been thought out, broken down and massaged into birth by a man with a determined vision and passion for his craft.
"Panorama Playground is a heady trip through the mind of Mr. Swab. It’s very well thought out and flows as an album should. At times it wanders slightly off course, but it is supremely evident that Swab can write, produce and assemble a great track" (4/6)