Pete Swanson, Man With Potential

Matt Sullivan

Pete Swanson, Man With Potential [Type Records]

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first: Yellow Swans were royalty during the Aughts' noise scene zeitgeist and their large run of releases were as high-quality as they were prolific. Want proof? We're still talking about it well after Gabriel Mindel Salomon and Pete Swanson decided to split and called it quits.
The good thing inevitably came to an end, but Swanson has been dedicated to life as a solo artist — Man With Potential is his third official full-length in just a little over a year, and his most visceral. A far different beast from the mildly predictable, but up to pedigree, drones of Feelings in America or the casually epic guitar spirit-yells of the good-humored I Don't Rock at All, Potential's driving force is its rapturously restless rhythms. Anxieties build and release in the shaking momentum; Swanson hasn't sounded this delightfully possessed and punk rock since Bring the Neon War Home.
A friend and colleague of mine even declared the opening track, “Misery Beat,” as the soundtrack for when shit hits the fan at Zucotti Park. Totally reasonable, and not because of Pete's probable sympathies to the 99%; the onslaught of fractured, abrasive electronics is bold and immersive enough to ensure the mass transformation from wound-up stand-still to sweat-drenched sprint. It's the spiritual release inherent to the more inspired forays into drone, but with the grinding pulse of industrial techno lurking deep within, always pushing forward.
The notion of pushing forward is actually a little misleading because these pieces don't really progress, though they do evolve– enduring static blasts, thousands of little glitches, each one a clever move in and out of another's phase, dragging you deeper into a groove, begging you to act out while immersed in this persistent, statically tense environment. This may sound familiar to fans and longtime devotees, but what makes this album particularly special is its accessible and positive kineticism. There is overwhelming dissonance, harsh timbres, hints of paranoia and suspense, but none of it really seems dark, only inviting. The feelings are of excitement, of movement, of changes equally intimidating and enlivening. “Face the Music” is literally a bunch of hooks that just happen to be noisily trading punches in straight-up danceable combat.
Cathartic vibes prevail, making the confessional seem purely victorious even when considering the creepy undertones. After all, Pete once said that when he felt Yellow Swans music was its most successful, it was more of a celebration than an assault, despite their associated scene's emotional tendencies towards anger, frustration, and struggle. Man With Potential's action-oriented psychedelia triumphs in urging open-ended, purposeful movement– whether cutting a rug or clenching a fist.

 
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