Sunday, February 19, 2023

Squid’s ‘Swing (In A Dream)’ Channels Nightmares And Hints At The Ambitions Of Upcoming Album

The alternative music scene in the UK has developed through recent years, increasingly becoming the perfect playing field for artists who defy pigeonholing with standard genre labels.

 Bands with idiosyncratic songwriting that really sound like nothing but themselves have thrived in this environment that welcomes a challenge, easily engaging audiences which are increasingly eager for something different – including the likes of London’s HMLTD or Bristol’s LICE who have been producing high-concept works with unique soundscapes. 

Both these groups are worth naming in connection with ‘Swing (In A Dream)’, the newest single from Squid – not necessarily because of open similarities in the composition or structure, but because they share, in a sense, the same philosophy: all three bands produce tracks that are dense with concept, convoluted in structure, heavy with atmosphere, and innovative enough that the word avant-garde is perhaps not misplaced in describing them.

The stereotype surrounding artists’ second albums – that these records forming the place for growth on top of the foundations laid by their debut – appears to ring true for Squid if this new single is anything to go by, as it teases new album ‘O Monolith’, expected for release in the early summer. 

In their first long player, ‘Bright Green Field’ – deservedly acclaimed by audience and critics alike – the Bristol-based five-piece had already moved well beyond the basic definition of post-punk to flirt with elements drawn from prog-rock, psychedelia, and even the occasional taste of hardcore. These elements were especially notable in the rhythm section, and this latest single reaffirms this as one of the most immediately recognisable aspects of their sound: animated, complex, flirting with irregularities of pace to convey mood in a way that is rarely seen in bands from a similar background. 

‘Swing (In A Dream)’ does a considerable amount of further legwork with this mix of influences, with an added layer of daring confidence laced with playfulness. According to drummer/vocalist Ollie Judge, the track is inspired by a disquieting dream featuring the painting after which it is named, a work by Honoré Fragonard; there is a deliberate attempt to convey a nightmarish dreamscape in the way its sound is crafted, with a much greater degree of haziness and breadth than is heard in the energetic contents of the band’s first record.

Squid’s selection of this single as the first taster of their upcoming album is perhaps signalling a change of pace. It is not a departure from the band’s stylistic fingerprints, as all of the classic Squid-isms we would expect are there: the urgent vocals, the subtle interplays between the guitars and the rhythm section, the building-up and surging waves of sound as the track explodes – or disintegrates – into a powerful ending. With ‘Swing (In A Dream)’ however, the band introduce an additional finely-tuned element of distortion and a complexity of build which is reminiscent of past glories like King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator, but which is ultimately, refreshingly, new. 

In the first releases of the year, 2023 already seems to be presenting itself – at least as far as the alternative rock scene is concerned – as a year for ambition and experimentation. With this single Squid are undoubtedly positioning themselves as one of the spearheads for this trend.

Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Swing (In a Dream)’ Official Single Cover

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