Don’t be fooled by the placid photo of horses that graces the cover of Swim Team’s Freedom/Constraint cassette EP: these six self-recorded tracks are dark and grungy, as the trio walks a fine line between moody subtlety and punk harshness.
The title track showcases the band’s most aggressive tendencies: “Freedom/Constraint” begins with a frantic surge of breathy shouts and lightning-fast rhythmic chaos before breaking down into an out-of-nowhere bridge of plodding bass and jagged-glass guitar abstractions. Standout cut “Tell” is slower but no less unsettling, evoking early-’90s alt-rock with its extended intro of watery guitar arpeggios; the tempo eventually accelerates into a distorted chug that sets up a threatening backdrop for spoken-word musings from the singer-bassist mononymously credited as Dorothy. Elsewhere, “Disgust” culminates in a wonderfully wild guitar solo that consists entirely of squalling feedback and scarcely contains any discernible notes.
“Interlude” is an unnecessary piece of dissonant guitar noodling that seems out of place on a debut EP such as this. Luckily, the trio makes up for this brief misfire with epic closer “Mega-C”, which juxtaposes the quiet, melodic prettiness of its eight-minute sprawl with an ominous drone that rumbles in the background throughout the track. This drone sounds like it might overtake the arrangement at any moment, but it never does, and this highlights Swim Team’s knack for building tension while preserving its flair for haunting melodies.