Nick Swannell’s Lockdown Album – Review

Kid Clean – alter ego of Pembrokeshire record producer Nick Swannell (whom we featured recently) – has released an excellent new album called A Brief Guide to Civil Disobedience.

Considering it was completed during the Covid-19 crisis, you might expect it to be doomy and gloomy. But in fact, it’s uplifting and full of music to raise the spirits.

“This record started life as an exercise in producing finished work,” says Kid Clean/Nick. “As a producer it’s something I help other musicians to do all the time, but struggle to do with my own stuff. So I trawled through the musical fragments on my hard drive and assembled a dozen or so pieces that showed promise, then bashed and hacked them into shape. 

“Some fell by the wayside and I wrote new ones to take their place. Eventually I had something that felt like a complete album.”

And that’s very much the beauty of A Brief Guide to Civil Disobedience – it feels like a good, old-fashioned album where the (predominantly instrumental) tracks have been placed in a carefully chosen order, with lots of shifts in mood from one to the next.

Sometimes the atmosphere will change dramatically within one piece: as in Summer Rain, where dreaminess gives way to heavy beats; and in Still Searching, where a melancholy fit for drifting in polar wastes is – temporarily – overtaken by the complete opposite .

Some are unashamedly retro/techno, such as Holding On, Simpler Times and the blatantly infectious Can’t Let The Feeling Go (this would be the album’s hit single!). The almost-Kraftwerkish Just Drive is one of several tracks that seem to take us on enigmatic journeys; Act Now and Revolution do the same, and all of these sound as if they could have been written for action movies – perhaps not entirely surprising since Nick also composes music for films.

Every track has something different to offer, but my personal favourite is Global South, with its thumb-piano-esque simplicity and a swaying quasi-African, world music feel to it.

Nick says of the album: “In years to come, when people ask ‘What did you do during lockdown?’ I’ll play them this. It may not be perfect… but it’s finished.”

To hear and buy A Brief Guide to Civil Disobedience, go to https://kidclean.bandcamp.com/releases.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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