It’s Friday, and we’re firing up the way-back machine. Got a lot of ground to cover, so there’s no time to waste… Here we go!
Swarm of Spheres – Invest in Your Death (self-released, 18 October 2013)
Swarm of Spheres – Brother, Take Five (No Why Records, 15 October 2021)
Cell Press – Cell Press (Ancient Temple Recordings / No Funeral, 27 November 2020)
Our story ostensibly starts nearly a decade ago, in summer 2012, when I randomly caught a Canadian band with an unusual name when they stopped in Pittsburgh during one of their excursions south of the border. I was blown away by the intensity of their pitch-black hardcore performance, but equally struck by how incredibly nice and genuine these folks were. Although it wasn’t really that surprising, since they’re Canadian, eh?
Anyway, over the next few years I made sure to go see Biipiigwan whenever they came back through the area, and soon learned that the line-up tended to shake up a bit, depending on who was available to leave the country each time they went on tour. One of these times was April 2013, when a bunch of us saw the band in Pittsburgh one night and then road-tripped to Columbus for an encore the following night, where they happened to be performing at a mini-festival. For the record, I was much younger and had considerably more energy back then.
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So finally, the point of this extensive trip down memory lane is that, on that occasion a gentleman by the name of Mark McGee was filling in for the group’s regular drummer. Later that same year Mark emailed me about a new release by one of his other bands, Swarm of Spheres. Some of the silly song titles (like “Shoot First, Ask Christian Slater”) were the first thing to catch my attention, but after hitting play it became immediately apparent that these guys are not here to joke around.
Invest in Your Death comes in at a bit under half an hour long, packed full of fast-paced grungy hardcore blended with traditional noise-rock. The title track (and later reprise “Seriously, Invest in Your Death”) are sort of exceptions to the norm: a little slower, almost what you might call a noise-doom style. But overall, there’s plenty of feedback and distortion and angst throughout these tracks.
This album found a home on my MP3 player for years — and I went back and listened to it a bunch of times — but I guess it was just one of those things, I never quite found the right moment to write about it. But then, almost exactly eight years later, I heard the news that the Spheres had followed up with another new release. And so now I’m sharing both of them with you readers.
Like its predecessor, Brother, Take Five is relatively brief (this one just over 20 minutes long), and also inhabits the noise-rock and hardcore territory. Perhaps even more of a grungy sound, a bit more fuzzy, even a bit more sludgy this time around. Especially the penultimate song “Ibuprofen” which oozes this like syrupy-sounding sludgy noise, before giving way to the chaotic and thunderous noise-rock title track.
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And while we’re at it, why not check out this great record that came out near the end of 2020 by Cell Press, which not only has the same drummer as Swarm of Spheres, but shares members with a bunch of other bands in the same local family tree — including two from The Great Sabatini.
The self-titled Cell Press release also barely exceeds the twenty-minute mark, its first half consisting of a quartet of songs that similarly are quick bursts of noise and grunge and fuzz; if anything, somewhat grittier and more distorted than the last band we covered — definitely the vocals are a bit harsher and more, shall we say, exasperated-sounding. But then, weren’t we all, in 2020? And now?
The remaining twelve minutes (give or take) are occupied by the track “My Son Will No [sic] the Truth,” an ambiguously-structured experimental piece filled with a smorgasbord of random sounds, just barely held together by the constant thread of drumming. But then, weren’t we all just barely holding it together, in 2020? And now?
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Both Swarm of Spheres albums are available digitally from their Bandcamp page (the latest one came out on vinyl but unfortunately looks like it has already sold out!).
The Cell Press can also be found digitally at Bandcamp, and there appears to still be a few cassette copies left at the No Funeral store.