Swayzak is dead. Long live S_W_Z_K! The story here is that after James Taylor left Swayzak in July of 2011, David Brown decided to carry on under a slightly altered name. The story isn't as simple as all that, however: the relatively commercial and accessible Swayzak sound has morphed into a darker and grungier techno style on the self-titled S_W_Z_K debut outing. Smothered in grime, sweat, and soot, it's precisely the kind of raw techno one might expect to hear roaring out of the infamous Tresor club at 3 in the morning. It's clearly a dramatic departure for Brown, who had worked with Taylor since 1997 and issued with him five studio albums, two DJ compilations, and a number of EPs. Not only is S_W_Z_K darker in tone, it's also minimal by design. By Brown's reckoning, no more than ten sounds were used per track so as to give each one room to breathe.
The album includes ten tracks, with all pretty much in the four- to seven-minute range, except for the final three where we find a thirteen-minute colossus, “End of the Line Old Boy,” framed by two short tracks, “Classified Dub” and the (hidden) “Deficit Dub.” Brown's command of sound design is impressive, and he exercises an expert controlling hand throughout. Metallic synths in the Basic Channel-styled opener “31 Techniques” repeatedly swell into surging waves, as a minimal techno pulse chugs locomotively alongside. A cool, industrial character permeates both “Dimanche Noir” and “Neukölln Mon Amour,” which likewise get their kinetic drive from unrelenting locomotive pulses.Like some deep water shark on the prowl, “Meatpackers Memorial” oozes a marauding quality, “The Last Drop” rolls out a coolly thunderous attack that escalates even further when a thumping kick drum pushes to the surface of its grimey mass, and “Elsenstr. 171” veers slightly in the direction of Raster-Noton and the clicks'n'cuts era in coating its machine-like rhythms with grainy textural smears and crackle. At album's end, Brown uses the extended track time to good effect in “End of the Line Old Boy” by introducing its various episodes patiently and in staggered manner. The trip features numerous peaks and valleys, as well as a few atmospheric passages, too. Though obviously uncompromising, S_W_Z_K, both as a concept and album, proves to be a satisfying and bold re-invention for Brown. That the album could just as easily have been issued on Ostgut Ton as Tresor says much about how current its Berlin-styled techno sounds.