Swahili, “Bardo”

Amelia Pitcherella

Having spent six years weaving threads from global pop, ’70s space disco, and post-punk, Portland five-piece Swahili have cultivated a psychedelic language of their own. Three of those six years have been devoted to their upcoming record, entitled AMOVREVX, which means “The Lover” in the Tarot de Marseilles. They say the album makes a more overt maneuver into the realm of pop—but it appears it will also manage to exceed the richness of texture that they’ve become known for.

“Bardo” is an arresting 11-minute jammer that resonates as much corporeally as it does aurally: between danceable rhythms and a throbbing bassline (whether in the form of synthesizer or guitar), it resonates through the body. The track’s opening is chilling, with a low, pervasive synthetic pulse driving the entrance of rolling waves of synths and a haunting, reverberant voice—but lest we be fooled, the chill gives way to the warm sounds of tribal drums, big bass guitar, and frontwoman Van Pham’s vocals, which are sweet and inviting as a contrast to the eerie sounds of before. Once it establishes this pace, it becomes a groovy pop tune with blips of synths and bright, funky guitar riffs that explode out into a frenzy of instrumentation, while Pham’s vocal harmonies ascend to the point of a halt in the sound. But on this track all breaks are temporary, mere detours to a revived sound—and indeed, Swahili dives right back into the groove with renewed energy. Though just a taste of what’s in store on the new album, this is a potent one.


AMOVREVX is due out February 24 via Seattle-based label Translinguistic Other.

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