… This astounding album seems, at times, the biography of the building it was recorded in – the Grunewald Church in Berlin. Acoustic bliss for an orchestral trio such as The Swifter, the space seems stony, resonant, and ethereal, and forms the basis of their interaction with each other and their instruments. Their attention to the atmospherics allows for a discourse that belies their own orchestral story – they’re nestled in the belly of this beast, and they’re producing their harmonies and rhythms accordingly.

Beyond this architectural reading of the album is a nautical element. ‘Swifter’ refers to a line that runs around the ends of the capstan bars on a ship that prevent their falling out of the sockets, and the names of the four pieces which make up the album conjure up a similar aesthetic. The opening gamut, fittingly titled ‘The End of the Capstan Bars’ begins quietly, almost invites its listeners to arrive in the space that it is opening up. But again, they’re inside the vessel; they’re swaying with its pulse, the rhythm that brings the trio together to perform this near perfect debut. They’re running their lines around this space, showing us its circumference, its nooks and crannies. They refuse to take up the space, but invite us to be inside it, for a soothing 46 minutes and 21 seconds. …

[read the full review online at]

The Swifter was later named as one of The Liminal's Albums of the Year 2012.

The Wormhole introduce The Swifter - a new trio featuring Andrea Belfi (drums and percussion), BJNilsen (electronics) and Simon James Phillips (piano) - on three tantalisingly spacious live recordings made in the Grunewald Church, Berlin. The players operate in discrete discourse with the building’s unique resonant architecture, using its airy aesthetic qualities and stone construction to deftly accentuate the harmonically rich tones and textures of their delicate gestures. Phillips plays a Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand, which is subsequently processed by Nilsen and punctuated by Belfi’s fluid, distinctive style in a feedback system of measured, tempered sonorities. Their first piece ‘End of Capstan Bars’ starts out creaking and keeling, evoking “the loneliness within a ship's hold” but evolves into a gorgeous and minimal wash of spiritual jazz tones and tranquil bliss also recalling Edward Larry Gordon’s ‘Celestial Vibrations’; ‘Neap Tide’ is quieter, space afforded to the fluttering keys and pensile electronics; ‘Swallow’ the seductive centrepiece, evolves rippling drum patterns and plangent harmonics that diffuse like incense; with ‘Wave Guidance Allows Three’ Belfi locks onto an urgent, metronomic rhythm while Phillips’ keys and Nilsen’s electronics accumulate a stirring mass of energy, dissipating when Belfi flickers into impossibly dextrous double time.

UK tape label the Tapeworm launches their new, non-tape imprint, called The Wormhole, with two new releases, the double 7” vinyl debut of drcarlsonalbion aka Dylan Carlson from Earth, reviewed elsewhere on this week’s list, and the oddly named outfit The Swifter, a trio of piano, electronics and drums and percussion, featuring long time aQ fave BJ Nilsen manning the electronics. This record documents the group’s first encounter, which took place in an old German church, and found the trio taking full advantage of the space’s incredible acoustics, for a fantastic bit of dreamlike minimalism, beginning life as a creaking ship’s hull, channeling Nurse With Wound’s fantastic Salt Marie Celeste, but quickly letting the piano move to the fore, the sound transforming into something much more Necks like, the flurries of swirling notes reminding us of Lubomyr Melnyk, the drums a subtle background shuffle, the electronics alternately adding texture, or manipulating the sounds of the other players, but on the opening track, the sound is quite organic, minimal motorik free jazz drift, that gradually splinters into something much more rhythmic and abstract, and electronic sounding, but due to the instrumentation and the space, even the electronics sound organic.

The rest of the record explores similar territory, the piano adding most of the melodic color, while the drums and electronics supply the texture, dreamy and washed out one second, spare and skeletal the next, with some really fantastic moments throughout, the looped piano fragment and martial snare on “Neap Tide”, or the No Neck Blues Band like soft cacophony on “Swallow”, the record finishing off with the fantastic “Wave Guidance Allows Three”, which again on the surface has a Necks like feel, but the low end piano is looped and layered and processed, creating huge dense blackened billows, churning and strangely atonal, while the drums supply a simple subtle driving rhythm underneath, before dissipating into a gorgeous glistening bliss out coda.

This is the eponymous debut album from Andrea Belfi (percussion), BJ Nilsen (electronics), and Simon James Phillips (piano). Recorded live in a Berlin church. the album comes across as an isolating, but effective combination of these three different artists, coming together to produce something that sounds like none of them in particular, but a whole that has its own singular sound.

The trio used the resonant space of the venue to excellent effect throughout The Swifter, with each piece bathed in a distinct, though natural reverb. “End of Capstan Bars” leads off the album with a hollow, environmental clattering that has a distinct character that even the most advanced of digital reverbs could nary hope to accomplish. Because it does have such a natural quality, even when it is used heavily throughout the performance, it does not come across as cliché dark ambience.

The electronic creaking and popping textures of “End of Capstan Bars” are paired with more organic piano and brushed percussion, coming together as distinctly different take on minimalist jazz fusion. “Neap Tide” has a repetitive piano and distant percussive sounds that are less musical and more environmental, having a sparse, yet beautiful arrangement.

“Swallow” is less about subtlety and instead focuses more on shambling and muffled percussion from Belfi, while Nilsen's electronic mangling comes out sounding like popping pop corn. Amidst a hollow, low frequency drone, piano and unconventional rhythms balance each other out in a strange, tense equilibrium, resulting in a surprisingly delicate sound before increasing in intensity in its latter moments.

“Wave Guidance Allows Three” is where the understated sensibility gets tossed by the wayside, with a grandiose, massive piano sound dominating, accentuated by percussion and what sounds like a simple rhythmic synth sequence. While the boisterous piano leads, it is soon deposed by the percussion taking the lead, locking everything into a vaguely krautrock groove while the piano piles up into a lush background texture.

This debut is intrinsically tied to its setting and performance, which may or may not be an important factor in future recordings. The isolationist, rhythmic quality to the sound is inviting, even though it is an obtuse approach to music.

Man soll Band- und Projektnamen ja nicht immer so ernst nehmen. Im Gegenteil, hin und wieder kann man sogar vermuten, dass die Sache eher als Spaß gedacht ist. Das gilt höchstwahrscheinlich auch für das Berliner Trio The Swifter, benannt nach dem Komparativ des englischen Adjektivs "swift". Versuchsweise lässt sich das übersetzen mit "Die Flinkeren", "Die Geschickteren" oder "Die Eiligeren", wobei zunächst unklar bleibt, ob das Wort im Singular oder im Plural zu lesen ist.

Man hat es hier wohl mit einem in alle möglichen Richtungen offenen Ausdruck zu tun. Was gut zur Musik passt, denn Offenheit ist das zentrale Thema ihres Debütalbums. In der Grunewaldkirche traf man zum ersten Mal in dieser Besetzung zusammen, um buchstäblich die Weite des Raums mit Instrumenten und Mikrofonen zu erkunden.

The Swifter, das sind der Schlagzeuger Andrea Belfi, der Pianist Simon James Philips und der Klangkünstler BJ Nilsen. Genau genommen gehört als viertes Instrument noch die Kirche mit dazu, denn ohne ihre Resonanzen wäre diese Platte gar nicht möglich gewesen. So ist die Musik denn auch kein lautstarker hallbedingter Frequenzstau, sondern ein leises Pulsieren, ein sachtes An- und Abschwellen von fast statischen Klavierklängen, die, ähnlich wie Wolken, luftig und undurchdringlich zugleich scheinen. Dazu ertastet Belfi mit seinem Schlagzeug die Architektur des Gebäudes vom Boden bis zur Decke.

Und irgendwo im Hintergrund sind da noch die elektronischen Klänge Nilsens, die oft mit dem Klavier zu verschmelzen scheinen, sich jedoch immer wieder von ihm lösen, um ihre eigenen Wege zu gehen. "Ortsbezogen" heißt so eine Musik oft nüchtern. Im Idealfall kann man mit ihr nachvollziehen, dass Musik eigentlich immer einen Raum und einen Körper braucht, dass Hören eine dreidimensionale Angelegenheit ist.

Davon bekommt man auf der Platte im Grunde nur eine Ahnung. Die Aufnahme hat reichlich Tiefe und Dynamik, kann aber den eigentlichen Ort natürlich nur annähernd abbilden. Was man allerdings darauf - durch die Mikrofone interpretiert - zu hören bekommt, ist so fein und faszinierend, dass man über diesen Verlust großzügig hinwegsehen kann. The Swifter verstehen es in der Tat äußerst geschickt, mit dem Raum umzugehen.

Ihre eigene Auskunft über den Namen ihres Trios lautet übrigens: "Swifters do not know they are swifters." TIM CASPAR BOEHME

Andrea Belfi alla batteria, BJ Nilsen all'elettronica e Simon James Phillips al pianoforte. Un trio delle meraviglie capace di parlare una lingua tra jazz e ambient più onirica che cosmica: la batteria di Belfi è il ponte tra l'elettroacustica di BJ Nilsen e il pianismo estremamente lirico di Phillips. Il suono dei piatti carezzati e percossi alla maniera di Paul Motian è il collante tra universi apparentemente distanti: nulla sembra fuori posto nelle liquide architetture sonore improvvisate da The Swifter.

Il disco è stato registrato all'interno della Chiesa Grunewald, a Berlino, nel settembre del 2011, facendo grande attenzione ai riverberi acustici dell'ambiente. A trarne giovamento è stata soprattutto la batteria di Belfi che nel mix finale sembra potersi muovere liquidamente nello spazio come nelle migliori produzioni dell'ECM. A enfatizzare l'eco e le riflessioni del suono gioca un ruolo fondamentale anche l'elettronica di Nilsen, che per l'ocasione ha manipolato i suoni del Bösendorfer suonato da Phillips al fine di sottolinearne i dettagli. Il risultato non è distante dalle atmosfere che si respiravano sugli incredibili dischi dei Necks (il cui pianista, Chris Abrahams, ha collaborato proprio con Phillips nel progetto Pedal, pochi anni fa).

L'idea di “spazio” fa scorrere con gran naturalezza le quattro lunghe improvvisazioni contenute sul disco. Ogni particolare della realizzazione di “The Swifter” è stato curato con grande attenzione: dalla scelta dei microfoni utilizzati durante la registrazione a quella per la foto di copertina per la quale è stato ingaggiato Chris Bigg, famoso per i suoi lavori sui dischi di David Sylvian e su molti dei capolavori della 4AD.

The Swifter è il progetto frutto dell’incontro fra tre dei protagonisti dell’ultimo decennio di musica ambientale: il pianista Simon James Phillips, il batterista Andrea Belfi (allievo “virtuale” di Brandlmayr) e il sovrano indiscusso del dark-ambient organico BJ Nilsen. Non inganni però la suddetta definizione: il riferimento è infatti a quella branca dell’ambient music elettro-acustica capace di evolversi sino a prendere le forme più svariate e a distanziarsi da quel canone “tradizionale” che da Brian Eno porta a Tim Hecker. L’omonimo debutto dei tre su Wormhole è un viaggio negli strati di un ambient imparentata strutturalmente con il minimalismo, espresso in un continuum sonoro costantemente in movimento, che nei tredici minuti di End Of Capstan Bars si dilata congiungendo ciclicamente nuove forme: prima il silenzio della natura, poi i flussi melodici dell’atmosfera e infine i droni di sinistri pseudo-archi a distanziarsi da ambedue. Negli altri tre brani la lente d’ingrandimento si posa rispettivamente su field recordings e ambienti da gelo svedese (Neap Tide), destrutturazioni ritmiche (Swallow) e onirismo strumentale guidato dal pianoforte (Wave Guidance Allows Three). Mai nessuno dei tre si era avvicinato tanto alla formula storica di Eno e successori: The Swifter congiunge quest’ultima alle sue incarnazioni più moderne, risultando UNO DEI DISCHI AMBIENT PIÙ FRESCHI DEGLI ULTIMI ANNI.

Ähnlich wie bei Gilded und Ackroyd spielt auch bei The Swifter das Klavier eine zentrale Rolle. Ganz so formstreng wie jene ist das Trio auf seinem selbstbetitelten Debütalbum jedoch nicht unterwegs, ganz im Gegenteil. Kein Wunder angesichts der Akteure: Der schwedische Elektroniker BJ Nilsen steht seit jeher eher für freie Formen ein (das kann auch mal schiefgehen), Perkussionist Andrea Belfi transformiert schon mal ganze Häuser in Musikinstrumente und Simon James Philips, dessen Piano auf The Swifter eine so zentrale Rolle spielt, hat seinen klassischen Background schon lange gegen die Identität eines Improvisationskünstlers eingetauscht. Ungewohnt ist höchstens, wie verhalten sie dann doch klingen. Hauchzart, kurz vor der absoluten Stille bewegen sich die vier verjammten Tracks. Keine Verlegenheit, sondern musikalischer Feinsinn: The Swifter geben sich bedächtig und erweisen sich als perfekt fluktuierendes Kollektiv, in dem Egomanie genauso wenig Platz eingeräumt wird wie unmotiviertem Krach. Leise und sanft lässt Nilsen die Elektronik knistern, mit viel Gefühl akzentuiert Belfi die krautigen Rhythmen. Und über allem windet sich Philips‘ Klavierspiel in nie enden wollenden (sollten sie auch nicht!) Kaskaden der Schönheit. Drei Ausnahmemusiker in vollendeter Symbiose, verträumt, entrückt und doch mit dem Blick aufs große Ganze. Wie ein verschwommener Tagtraum. Ein wunderbares Album, bezaubernd von der ersten Sekunde bis zur letzten.

TEXTURA (Canada)
Recorded at the Grunewald Church in Berlin in September 2011, The Swifter's self-titled debut album pools the improvisatory talents of electro-acoustic percussionist Andrea Belfi, sound artist B J Nilsen, and experimental composer-pianist Simon James Phillips. Though each brings a highly personalized background in music production to The Swifter, it's Belfi's involvement in a project called Between Neck & Stomach, in which he turned a house into a musical instrument by using sound vibrations to shake items such as pots, plates, and cupboards (a CD of the same name was issued on Häpna in 2006), that provides a helpful segueway to the trio release. The connection? On The Swifter, the musicians also eschew conventional role-playing for a multi-layered approach to sound-generation that's predominantly textural in design.

The extended opening piece “End of Capstan Bars” begins with ambient sounds of object clatter and muffled noises of indeterminate origin that gradually assume a more musical formation, as if the three collaborators are feeling their way along, collectively shaping the material in the moment. Dense piano-generated clusters appear in tandem with percussive rumble and cymbal shadings, with Nilsen's presence more subliminal in the early going but becoming more pronounced as the piece unfolds. On the second side, Phillips's dense clusters nicely dovetail with Nilsen's electronics to generate a dronescape during the opening part of “Swallow” before Belfi splits it apart with a series of drum and cymbal punctuations. It's during the recording's second half that the material takes a more aggressive turn, with the rolling piano patterns, electronic cloud mass, and now-insistent drumming building into an ever-intensifying whole.

The Swifter exudes a rather Touch-like quality in the patient and explorative mindset the three participants bring to the project and in the restrained manner by which the material develops. No jarring detonations occur but instead carefully considered interplay, with each musician acting more as sound colourist than conventional soloist; Phillips, for example, uses the piano less for voicing themes than as a percussive device. There are times, however, when that reticent approach results in what seems like a missed opportunity, such as when Phillips initiates “Neap Tide” with a chiming pattern of Reich-styled repetitions that the others only tentatively respond to with subtle expressions rather than exploiting the dynamic potential offered by the pianist's playing.

[…] The Swifter combine their desire to record in an open, public space with the nautical aspects of their namesake. They aurally transform the alter into the hull of a ship, which bulges and splits as the group grace their makeshift platform. The transpiring set plays on these themes through track titles in addition to the coarse reverberation that clings to Phillips’ trembling keys and Belfi’s sporadic percussion, a delicate vessel at the mercy of a cascading body of water, chopping and slipping in tempo and rhythm. The ambiance embodies tumultuous quality, which exposes one of the central reasons for choosing this space: The Swifter utilize the loss of acoustic control that was wonderfully harnessed by A Winged Victory For The Sullen and use it here to bridge switches in pace that are so curiously explored on, for example, the second half of “Neap Tide,” which folds tidy and repetitive high notes into slowly encroaching percussion before breaking off into an imposing drone. Where these projects diverge somewhat is in their apparent mood; an air of uncertainty bisects the seemingly improvised jams this inconspicuous trio conjure as Nilsen feeds Phillips’ beautiful renditions through his wily circuitry.

Such subtle moments are also alluded to in the seafaring references that trickle across The Swifter’s tracklist. The interplay amid the stone-wall acoustics of Grunewald and the unyoked compositions that spill out over its decks create the most forsaken, precarious sensations — the sound of a bow creaking on “Swallow” or the rapid engulf of piano and percussion patchwork on “Wave Guidance Allows Three.” This is a project that remains loyal to its underlying themes while leaning heavily on the interference, or even the guidance, of environmental surroundings. The four resulting tracks bolster the groups’ decision to record at Grunewald while emphasizing their intent on using the building as a vehicle as opposed to exploring the possibility of lacing their songs with a message that veers anywhere outside of sonic temperament. In this case, it makes for an absorbing, resplendent listen that pulls on the unique talents of each musician, despite the isolated and forceful pieces they present here. A manically inspired protest album this is not, but through utilizing the capacity of their venue, The Swifter have cultivated a celestially enchanting debut.

[read the full review at]