If there was ever an album that I needed a good month’s listening to digest, Swindle’s debut LP for Deep Medi ‘Long Live The Jazz’ was most certainly it. So much so that I don’t actually know where to start. Whether it be the glorious, funk-laden groove of the album’s Intro or the rip-roaring bass and razor-sharp synths on ‘Forest Funk’, it’s an album that at times, has left me perplexed by its sheer ingenuity and originality. That said, it is by no means over-worked nor offers even an ounce of ostentation – it’s fun, accessible and in short, just a great summer record. The key? “I’m just desperate to do my own thing in what can sometimes by a ‘samey-samey’ scene”, Swindle explains.
Speaking to him in the familiar comforts of his studio, he exuded a measured sense of pride but also relief when discussing the inner-workings of piecing the LP together, a process that’s taken near-on two years to complete. “Ah shit man, I’m just glad to get it off my chest finally in a way. I feel like I really needed this to explain myself and what I’ve been trying to do all this time” he says. Although a familiar name on UK dancefloors over the last three years, Swindle’s talents go beyond the role of the producer and beyond the confines of the DJ booth – he is after all, a musician. His love of funk, jazz (as the album testifies) and soul is well-documented and straight from the off, Long Live The Jazz throws us in at the deep end of Swindle’s musical melting pot.
The album’s Intro, as I mentioned earlier, is probably one of the best I can remember listening to, purely because it defines Swindle the artist so well, working jazzy chords, carnival rhythms, whistles and booming bass in what ultimately feels like a celebration – there are no gentle introductions here. ‘Forest Funk’ is first to follow, itself released as a 12” single on Deep Medi late last year and flips the script completely, building slowly before exploding into life, looking towards his labours with Anti Social for inspiration. It’s important to remember that Long Live The Jazz builds on the work Swindle has done with Medi over the last year too, a relationship that has not only allowed him to release an album but also express himself without limitation. “Mala just really understands what I’m on”, he explains, “I can go to him with any questions or concerns, I can even moan at him really and he’ll still get where I’m coming from. It’s been a blessing really.”
Alongside ‘Forest Funk’ and club-favourite ‘Do The Jazz’, the other more familiar track to earn a place on the LP is ‘Ignition’, a collaborative effort featuring Nadia Suliman and Footsie, the only explicitly grime-themed cut on the album. Self-released back in 2012, it sees Suliman on the hook and Footsie on mic duties, lacing what is essentially warped and wobbly dubstep in typically competent fashion; not necessarily a sure-fire inclusion for me, but one that merits if merely for the impact it had on both radio and in the clubs. Other collaborations feature The Milk on ‘Kick It’, an absolute stomper in it’s own right, laden with some frenzied drum work and crushing synths, ‘Running Cold’ with songstress Terri Walker and the dreamy, melody-driven ‘It Was Nothing’ featuring Sam Frank.
The brilliant ‘Phone Me’ interlude also makes an appearance after originally being uploaded to Swindle’s YouTube channel for a laugh. At just over a minute long, it literally documents how your phone ringing would sound through Swindle-glazed eardrums. Aside from the simple brilliance of it, it again highlights the freedom in which Swindle has undertaken the task of building the LP; “I’m not with Deep Medi because they’re a cool label, I’m with them because I know the people there have got my back creatively.”
Further album tracks include spaced-aged jazz cut ‘Pledge Allegiance’, synth-driven club banger ‘Start Me Up’ that adopts a similar template to ‘Forest Funk’ and ‘Keep Me Warm’, a far less intense, ranging instrumental that touches on dizzying at points. ‘Last Minute Boogie’ continues the club-banger theme, working meticulous drum work with high-intensity synths and trademark bass hits whilst ‘When I Fly’ is something altogether different. Welcomed in by a chorus of vocals, it employs an entirely different blueprint, exploring drums, keys, synths and Swindle’s trademark vocoder FX to extraordinary results. It is probably my favourite track on the album and is probably the one track that exemplifies the real underlying thinking behind the LP – the element of live performance.
Swindle’s love of playing the keys, something he’s done live on the ‘Mala In Cuba’ tour over the last year and dabbled in at a number of Butterz parties, has always been a major influence on his music and ‘Long Live The Jazz’ has been built with entirely this in mind. His album launch, played out at Fire in Vauxhall saw him perform the LP in it’s entirety with a full band for the first time, a milestone not only on a personal level but also for music of this kind more generally.
“If felt so natural”, he explains, “I felt like I could finally play my music the way it was supposed to be heard. I mean, I love deejaying and it serves its purpose but what I do works a lot better in a live environment. That first gig, the reaction to it… you’d never be able to re-create that with a DJ set. There’s just something about live music, five people on a stage vibrating together to make one sound that people gravitate to, that’s what it’s about. I’m addicted to it now, I just can’t wait to play the album again.”
From Butterz to Deep Medi and from Grime to Jazz, Swindle has engineered an utterly likable, sonically fascinating brand of music that as yet, knows no boundaries. Now with the added live element too, I for one can’t wait to see what he does next. Long live the jazz.
‘Long Live The Jazz’ is out now on Deep Medi