Buzz- Wes Swing: His minimalism isn't just a sound
Experimental folk rocker Wes Swing takes pride in making a lot out of a little. Like a cold fall night pierces a mountain hollow, his twangy voice rings out over his classical cello strings. That's not many ingredients, but his debut album, Through a Fogged Glass, neatly packages them into a crisp yet rewarding set of two-minute looped soundscapes.
"I'm really interested in getting a lot out of something very small," says Swing. "I want to create something really expressive in a short amount of time, in a big, bombastic way."
Swing began his musical journey as a four-year-old violinist, developing an early appreciation for classical music, and he was playing in orchestras by the time he hit second grade. He later picked up the guitar to pursue rock music, but by the time he hit college, he was back to his classical roots with the cello.
"I felt that that was what I was supposed to be doing all along," he explains. "It's much more immediate and accessible to people. When I write, I'm thinking, 'What about this experience means something?' I hope that it's more universal than just my own personal take on things."
He began working on Through a Fogged Glass about two years ago, playing as many instruments as he could and bringing in some of the top local artists to fill in the gaps, including Brian Caputo, an ace percussionist, and Charlottesville darling Devon Sproule for vocals. The latter's lilting and sensual voice is the perfect companion to Swing's scratchy draw. The two tightly but organically intertwine on the lullaby "Sleeping Moon."
Swing wrote most of the album in a Nelson County cabin where–- in between sessions teaching music and tutoring Latin–- he would crank up the wood stove on cold nights and experiment with literary influences.
"I was barely scraping by, living without much, but I had to find a way to make it work financially," he explains. "I'm lucky. I could make a living while having plenty of free time to record and write."
The literary influences abounded, as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound would find places within "In a Station of the Metro" and "All Other Love." But other things weren't quite so abundant–- "certain things like health insurance," he laughs.
Still, the sacrifice has begun to pay off. After the album release gig at the Jefferson, Swing will take his cello to the West Coast before heading off to Germany, where an audio engineer fan has offered studio space and financing for his next album. So the Swing aesthetic may remain minimalist, but perhaps the process won't have to be.
Wes Swing releases Through a Fogged Glass on Friday, January 7, at The Jefferson, where Devon Sproule will release Live in London. Doors for the show open at 7pm, and tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.