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CD review: ‘Say My Name 2’

Steve Swyers

You can buy “Say My Name 2” at saymyname.bandcamp.com.

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Producer Steve Swyers’ Say My Name project returns with a plainly titled follow-up to his 2010 solo debut. Like that memorably angular listen, “Say My Name 2” is another ADD romp through a ’70s junk-culture landscape of half-heard samples, vocal snippets and jittery percussion.

It has been 13 years since Fatboy Slim unleashed “The Rockafeller Skank” and more than two decades since the Beastie Boys’ seminal “Paul’s Boutique.” In other words, 1970s pastiche is way played in 2011.

But “Say My Name 2” isn’t interested in constructing groovy funk dance music for camp value. While Swyers mines some of the same source material that DJs have been sifting through for years, he’s doing it in pursuit of an aesthetic that values texture and atmosphere over ass shaking.

The album opens with “The Squeakquel,” with a rolling drum beat and a child’s voice talking about “the strangest feeling we’ve been through this exact same thing before.” It’s close to the first EP in approach, but the record doesn’t travel in the same footprints as its predecessor.

“Screwdriver” is a speedy 77 seconds of twisty snares and warbling effects that sound as if they’re being played back on a reel-to-reel tape machine wound by hand. That segues into “Badlands,” with a whistling New Wave synth line that fizzles out and reappears, accompanied by a twanging guitar. A male voice (or is it even human?) supplies an indistinct and vaguely eerie set of “bahs” over the top, in tidy contrast to the crinkly electronic handclap drumbeat.

“What’s After Next” combines sedately burbling synthesizers with a restless ambient rattling. That’s underscored by a distressed, artificial-sounding string section and what sounds like a choir singing a cheerful ’50s TV commercial jingle pulled violently out of context.

“Key Biscayne” is the electronic organ soundtrack to a broken-down “Tunnel of Love” ride from a disreputable traveling carnival. “I Don’t Feel Funny” is a brief minute of demented music-box plinkplonk, with an occasional warble from what might be a handsaw being played with a violin bow.

“The Red One” combines an almost arabesque instrumental loop with a seemingly human female voice chirping and cheesy flying saucer sound effects. The rhythmic marimba and mute guitar plucks of “The More You Know” call to mind the sound signature of Gnarls Barkley’s genius “Gone Daddy Gone” cover.

“Say My Name 2” is tough to classify. While it’s a beat-oriented instrumental album, it doesn’t resemble the Teddybears or any of the other current standard-bearers working in the dance genre. It’s more an exploration of mood and modulation, better for contemplation than movement.


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