The elusive SW. returns to Avenue 66 with okALGORYTHM. His third LP for the label is a semi-opaque wandering through the shadowy byways of memory, driven by tough-yet-supple production and his unmistakable, unerringly original voice. Inspired by all night electronic radio shows of the ‘90s, okALGORYTHM pulses with rich imagination and a sense of purposeful meandering. Speaking in cryptic fragments, the artist hints at elusive reminiscences “back then on the autobahn, to Berlin, with friends” while also noting that some recollections are “of things that didn’t happen that way.”
To this end, the album drifts from the knotty synth spirals of opener “WHAtADAY” through the tense, technoid tropics of “stepCLASSixMOtor,” the brightly melancholic Larry Heard-isms of “TROPyCALLhytsrIA” to the stately skronk of closer “What endingENDs.” The rhythmic undergirding never lets up, suggesting a limitless night drive tinted in deep greens and refracted reds. Each of the album’s ten tracks comes alive with warm, analog finesse and a palpable atmosphere, though they play out by turns urgent or unhurried, coaxing or inscrutable. Yet throughout, there’s a consistently hypnotic quality which draws the listener deeper into the album’s unique balancing act.
If listeners are trained to expect throwback anthems every time the ‘90s are referenced, here they might find a more apt touchstone in the wilder, left-of-center corners of Chicago’s foundational epoch. Throughout the album, the spirit of jacking house is absorbed, metabolized and transmuted. Drawing on lineages of taut, nervy synth-and-drum machine workouts, SW. manipulates his hardware with the delicate, considered touch of a painter. Perhaps the memory that lingers longest from that bygone era is the sense of profound possibility that dawns before forms become rigidly calificed and commodified. Either way, adventurous listeners will find that okALGORYTHM blooms with a uniquely affecting grace and SW.’s inimitably obscure loveliness, infused with a somber glow and marked by shimmering, untraceable contours.