Recorded by Sel. Mastered by Mark. Cover painted by Esther. Released 12 August 2021 on Bandcamp.
Sel Balamir is the guitarist, vocalist and song writer in the four-piece progressive rock band Amplifier from Manchester, England. Swell is his second solo release.
I first encountered Sel Balamir when his band Amplifier supported Melissa auf der Maur in April 2004. I was blown away by their heavy progressive loveliness. I ordered their album the following morning and I’ve bought almost everything they’ve released since.
Swell is a departure from Amplifier’s more full-on rock sound into more mellow, meandering tones and meditative depths. It immediately brings to mind the difference between Justin Broadrick’s two projects Godflesh and Jesu, both of which I love in equal measure.
The three tracks on this EP have a sea theme. For those who may not know
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, AC was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water.Wikipedia
“Swell” (track 1), by far the longest track on the release at 20′ 42″, perfectly captures the feeling of bobbing gently on the ocean. It took me quite a few listens to fully ‘get’ this track, but I am so thankful that I put in the effort. It is calm, it is repetative. A guitar arpeggio provides an almost constant undercurrent to a gentle, floating bass melody. This is a story within a song, a journey, and one of the most sublime passages of music that I’ve heard in a long time. It takes me back to listening to Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson’s Industry collaboration—that feeling of relaxing into a piece of music and allowing it to carry you to new places. This is just so wonderful!
I remember as a child watching documentaries by the French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. The song that bears his name (track 2) is built around a spacious bass riff and high guitar arpeggios that gives the song a very floaty feeling. Sel’s vocals are largely in a high falsetto contributing to this sense of other-worldliness. This is by far my favourite track on the EP.
The release is rounded out with “Seagull” (track 3) which opens with an ethereal organ swell that expands with drums and bass after a couple of minutes. You can imagine yourself lying on a boat on the ocean staring up at the sky, watching the seagulls circle and swoop in the sky above.
Open up your wings and soar like a seagull out from shoreLyrics by Sel Balamir
Circling above my head – well, I’m your friend
You’re where the sunshine smiles down
You make me feel safe and calm
And that is exactly how this EP makes me feel: safe and calm. This month, this has been my music of choice while working. It is undistracting as background music, but when I stop to listen carefully it draws me in and takes me on a journey, simultaneously deeper into myself while paradoxically out into the wider world. It is sublime and I have unashamedly listened to this on repeat for days.
Review score: 100%