"I have never felt as much like a musical outsider as I have this year," says experimental sound artist Pete Swanson. Moving from the psychedelic-noise-rock of his former group, Yellow Swans, to the electro-techno of releases like Punk Authority, Swanson notices the reactions to his unconventional and genre-bending productions.
"There are preconceived ideas regarding how electronic music is made and presented," says Swanson, "Due to my noise background, I'm into my music being blasted over a PA at a volume most think is excessive. I play on the floor in front of a PA. I don't DJ. I haven't really done remixes or used a computer. I keep rolling up to shows and people have ideas of what I'm bringing but it's generally not the case. It's hopefully something more confounding or affecting than what was expected."
Swanson recorded his first full solo release, Man with Potential, in the woods of Oregon in 2011. It received a lot of positive attention over the following 18 months, which surprised him since he was busy doing a Masters in Psychiatric Nursing at Columbia University in New York, where he lives. In response, he released Pro Style, "the most 'pop' track I've made," and then Punk Authority, "which takes this overtly techno vocabulary and places it in a context that enhances error and deterioration."
Using a modular synthesizer, a mixer, an analogue tape delay and a few pedals, Swanson is out there and everywhere without any desire to conform. The only constant is his use of electronic technology to disorient and de-familiarize listeners.
"I gravitate towards music that is self-contradicting or mysterious in a way that isn't just an obvious pose," he explains. "I play with all these contradicting gestures simultaneously, pulling from pop and avant-garde, going between composed and improvised, from hi-fidelity to lo-fidelity. I'm not concerned with genre."
Pulsating and mystifying, Swanson hopes the experience of his live performance is unique. The appreciation of his work has allowed him to play all over the world: Madeira, Portugal, Monterrey, Mexico. Next up: Halifax. --AY
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