Band – SWEAT
Album – SWEAT EP
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Dark Experimental/Sludge
Release Date – March 22, 2020
Label – Independent Release
Author – JGilbert
I’m late to the party on this one, and I’m sad that I missed its release among all the chaos of current events, but this is a band that is particularly special to me and this release is particularly good, so please accept my belated apologies and read on.
SWEAT are a special band; precisely the kind of left-field-gem that keep people like me fixated on underground music. We dig through record stores, SoundClouds, and Bandcamps; hours of our lives spent searching for the kind of feeling you might get from listening to SWEAT EP. The Flint experimental darkcore trio have been releasing material since 2013, and in that time they’ve come a long way from both a musical and a production standpoint. Their 2017 debut full-length Gloom Pride made waves around the internet and made SWEAT a band that people outside Michigan were talking about. Now the band has returned with a new self-titled EP of re-recorded tracks from Gloom Pride, that come with a new vision for the sound made possible by a streak of good luck in which the band won a contest and received a week of professional studio time with local legend Josh Schroeder at his private facility in Midland, MI. The songs are all still produced by vocalist/guitarist Krista Loutner, but access to Schroeder’s pro gear and studio support from Elise McCoy of Century Babes opened new possibilities for the sound of the songs on SWEAT EP; an opportunity that the band, and Loutner’s production, in particular, seized upon with both hands.
Loutner admits it wasn’t easy to decide which songs would end up on the EP; the album they’re taken from is very personal to her and its release meant a lot for the band. “Gloom Pride is really low-fi and ethereal. We recorded it with our own gear in a Michigan basement and so it’s hard to hear what’s going on; this one’s way more ‘present’… I wish we could have redone the whole album” she says. The difference in sound between the versions we got in 2017 compared to the new tracks is so stark that several critics, myself included, admit to not realizing they were old songs at heart on first listen. The band is particularly (and rightfully) proud of the layering and dynamism in the arrangements that was made possible through McCoy’s assistance in the studio. You’ve never heard SWEAT sound like this, and I can think of few bands who deserved the opportunity more.
The new EP wastes no time putting the new sounds on full display, as the vocals on “Bend” soar over subdued overdriven guitars that are distinctive of SWEAT’s sound. Valerie Klaft’s drumwork is cavernous at times and dreamy at others, and along with the dynamic new vocal sound, it’s one of the best things about the record. This new version of “Mantra” might be the best summary of all of the band’s outside influences and their ability to pay a higher-fidelity homage to Deftones in the studious gleefully evident in the song’s outro. The Deftones influence continues on “Shoulder”, which has some of Eric Gerholtz’s most punk-y basswork as well as a guitar-and-bass harmonized riff that has a deliciously catchy groove, which will get stuck in your head for days. Also on display, is a vocal influence from a less likely source: “I was feeling super black metal with some of the vocals” Lautner admits. The soft, otherworldly clean parts, dripping with reverb, hang beautifully over their shrieked counterparts like a translucent fog in the mix. EP closer “Vaseline” is the harshest and heaviest track of the bunch, screaming and stomping its way to a cathartic sigh of an outro. In all an astounding piece of work and a scintillating promise of what this band is capable of with access to the kind of support they so clearly deserve.
As for what’s next for the band, it might be some time before they can play live, but housemates Lautner and Klaft intend to continue writing and arranging new music. “During quarantine I’ve been revisiting a lot of voice recordings and demos from back in 2012, and we might do something with that… I have, like, one hundred and sixty songs worth of material on this one phone” says Lautner. As if massaging a new album out of a hundred songs weren’t ambitious enough, Lautner plans to continue work on her electro-grunge project, Perfect Goddess, who also released an album earlier this year. It’s safe to say that anybody who hears either record will have their eyes on SWEAT moving forward.
Recommendation – With its easily palatable run time, SWEAT EP deserves to be played at every opportunity. Please don’t sleep on this Album Of The Year contender from some of our most promising local talent.
Rating – 5/5