Richard Swift as Onasis EP
Its surprising to know that singer-songwriter Richard Swift is more or less a local artist. Originally from Eugene, he's since relocated to Los Angles and begun to gain some steam in the music business. Since releasing Dressed Up for the Letdown last year and touring with indie-rock vets Wilco, Swift has certainly brought some indie-rock street-cred to his name. In his new double album EP, he becomes his Krautrock-inspired alter ego, Onasis, and the repercussion is twenty songs of instrumental genius. Think 1950s blues infused rock and roll played lo-fi, unpolished and occasionally graced with a seedy 70s bar organ. Swift is famous for shining the spotlight on forgotten sounds and giving them his own twist.
For the most part, the songs are short instrumentals, swarming full of skuzzy riffs, and intentionally raw (he recorded the entire double EP on a cheap four-track). The result is the exact kind of vintage recording that creates atmosphere and unmistakable tone. When Swift graces us with a verse or two, his vocal delivery is undeniable. For example, in the ironic "Sign Language," a greasy Swift growls, "Oooohhh, the twenty-seventh of Septembahh!" What did he say? Does it matter? Of course not, but it works.
Many of the songs pay direct homage to delta blues greats Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker. The song "JLH" has Swift vocalizing his name repetitively over of cacophony cymbal and tambourine sound. "Whistle At The Bottom Of A Shoe" is a dead-on re-creation of Johnson's primal blues. "SM60" faintly resembles The Pretenders "Message of Love" minus Chrissie Hynde, but with more 1-4-5 gritty blues chord progressions. The album is unlike anything he's ever tried before, but don't let that let you chop it down to mediocrity and categorize it under lo-fi, it has a lot of surprising depth.
- Tauna Leonardo