‘Threshold’ from Schwa - styles blend and influences arrive from far and wide(May 29, 2017)
Some people will not find this an easy album to take in and that’s a shame because there’s much to absorb. There are folk dirges, mixes of swing, strange ambient voices, jazz-driven interludes, wistful meanderings and inventive expression. Styles blend and influences arrive from far and wide, including England, Cuba, Ethiopia and South Africa. At times it’s intriguing, at others, bemusing. Sometimes the hook is instant, at other times elusive. ‘Threshold’ from Leeds-based band Schwa is melange that constantly flips and twists, which creates both attraction and confusion. The publicity states: “Schwa don’t quite know how to answer the question, ‘So what kind of thing is it then?” Well I would agree with that.
The poetry of Edward Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins, sit comfortably in the arrangements woven around them, while the original lyrics from Peter Spafford range from folk idyll to ominous observation. The endlessly morphing musical cocktail moves through its sources of influence with a fluid and subtle flow but the occasional unusual switch may take some by surprise. The standout tracks to my ears are ‘Bound Away’, ‘Broad Back Of England’, ‘Swing Of The Sea’ and ‘Ready Chair’.
Should you find you’re searching for a box to position ‘Threshold’ don’t bother, go with it and you will find a place for this album. Just don’t listen once, there’s far more to it than first-listen reveals.
Review: Charlie Elland