ICA, London, UK (April 16, 2004)
Crowds slowly gathered in a blackened room, bathed in the subtle light emanating from video screens showing shaky camerawork documentation of Immersion's audio-visual performance from years before. The subtlety and smoothness of the original compositions were at odds with the jagged editing and framing of the drunken camera. And so began Swim's tenth birthday bash at the ICA—a curious evening of contrasts, of glossy eyed nostalgic trips and hints at the label's future direction.
Brutally short set lists meant acts barely had time to register, and all were seemingly at odds with themselves, none more so than Lobe, Hartley's stationary position behind his laptop a direct opposite to the frantic beats and noises played.
Symptoms, too, played a game of perception, wrenching noises so big from a guitar so small, and manufacturing noises discordant and harsh, yet often also textural and beautiful.
Silo were perhaps the odd ones out. A flawless set echoed back to days past, when the band sat high on the throne of post-rock, with few realising the Danish trio's claim to the crown. Powerful, but familiar, clockwork riffs wormed their way into the minds of the audience, and everyone at once knew: the world still needs Silo. How strange that such pioneers had nothing new to say—perhaps Silo fitted into the contrary line-up after all.
Githead arrived last, in a baptism of fire. Technology conspired against the battling trio of Newman, Spigel and Rimbaud. Clever songs and melodies remained frustratingly just out of reach, buried under deafening digital drums, ear-wrenching feedback, and indiscernible vocals. The contrast here: feeling the quality despite the noise, and knowing that the technology that feeds the act was tonight its undoing. Better things beckon for Githead, I'm sure.
So, ten years on and everything on Swim remains contrary to everything else, and even itself. There's surely no other way to be.
Photography: Craig Grannell