Listen to this track by Victoria BC beach-urchins and roots, blues, and psych indie-rock stylists Current Swell. It’s “Keys To The Kingdom”, the second track from their newest record Ulysses, released last week. This is their fifth record, laid down in very short order in Vancouver at Greenhouse studios with producer Nathan Sabatino at the boards.
This song represents an airy, more psychedelic end of the spectrum on this new disc, and in a career of four previous releases as well. The slide guitar driven neo-blues jam sound they’ve established is still very well represented on several tracks here, including the first single “Rollin'”.
But here, the muscular blues-rock vibe is tempered a bit with hazier textures and dreamier atmospheres. This song represents an expansion of their sound, even as the rest of the record shores up their strengths as a band who can wail in a live context.
And speaking of an on-the-floor live sound, that’s another thing about this track, and the record as a whole …
The goal for this recording was to make sure that each track, including this one, made sense as recordings while also being immediately playable on stage. This is where this band earned their stripes, playing to festival crowds, and often as openers for bands ranging from The Tragically Hip to The Beach Boys. I saw them live for the first time at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival, around the time they won Vancouver’s Peak Performance Project in 2011. It stands to reason that they’d want to continue along a similar trajectory, presenting new material to their base that will translate on stage.
But, this song stands out for me when it comes to Current Swell, just because it shows them to be more than just a tight band with a considerable capacity to jam in a laid back, blues-infused sort of way. These guys are songwriters. As evidenced by “Keys To The Kingdom” (that title – Washington Phillips reference? Hmmm….), they understand the importance of varied texture within a song, with shimmering tremolo-soaked guitar, phased drums, and spacious vocals and choir-like and Beatlesesque harmonies (my favourite element here). They also understand how that song in turn contributes to the flow of an album, being a singular statement that doesn’t jar stylistically with its companions.
After four records, this isn’t exactly new territory for the band. But, with an infusion of resources presented by their Peak Performance win, it sounds like they’ve upped their game as a group of musicians who are at home as a studio entity as well as a live act, even if they spent a scant twenty days laying this record down so as not to second-guess themselves.
The result is a record that they can take to the international crowds to whom they’ve played rigourously on multiple stages and continents by now. This new release also stands as a statement that provides them with a rung on a ladder that makes them seasoned creators of records, too. That represents something that looks a lot like longevity.
Learn more about Current Swell at currentswell.ca.
And to find out more about how they created the new album, take a look at this mini-documentary that gives you the skinny.
Thanks to Sony Canada who sent along a download of the new record.