On their sophomore recording project, Swallows wanted to challenge themselves by developing a full live sound. They wrote new material, filling the new spaces with a guitar loop pedal and expounding on the intricate musicianship for which they are often commended. This five song EP, Cloud Machines is an unrefined, epic montage of textures, ancestral beats and astounding vocal layers. Cloud Machines was released on Church of Girl Records November 20, 2007.
During the summer of 2007, Swallows entered the home studio of Kipp Crawford and recorded the instrumentation of Cloud Machines in just two days. Em recorded her vocals on her own at Swallows rehearsal studio and delivered the tracks to Kipp to mix and master. About the process, Miller explained, “The recording feels really organic but the songs are also way more rocking than anything we have done before. And Brownlowe added, "I remember reading artist philosophers incite stating 'the most beautiful paintings are found when you close your eyes'. I truly feel this record is a manifestation of the sounds we envisioned in our minds".
On Cloud Machines, Swallows continue to expand the boundaries of their vision of pop music. Even though the material on the EP is darker than the collection of alt.pop/garage-infused tracks on their previous release, Swallows music continues to be rooted in the ideals of pop. The songs are sonic tales of the band's experiences as young queer musicians, the excitement of traveling, the pressures of pursuing the American Dream as well as personal relationships - all told with a dose of their endearing sense of humor. Experientially, the record is dense, rowdy, elevating and spaciously arranged.
Both band mates took on new artistic challenges in the song arrangement and recording process. Prior to Cloud Machines, Brownlowe established her songwriting technique as a rhythm guitarist. The addition of the loop pedal in the song writing for the new EP allowed her to branch out and experiment with lead parts on top of the basic guitar tracks. Miller's melodic percussive style continues to be innovative filling out the lower register without the support of standard beats. He relates the duos work on Cloud Machines to the big switch in the late seventies when bands like Patti Smith and The Raincoats made the switch from punk to world/dance/ tribal/jazz influenced work. "I feel like I can see a real mirror between that and what has been happening in our own song writing," Jon said.
For the artwork of Cloud Machines, Swallows wanted the artwork on the EP to echo the nature of their music. They commissioned Andrew Roberts to create a desolate industrial world being championed by neon colored birds. The title "Cloud Machines" is based on an explanation Jon’s parents gave him as a child when they drove from their rural NJ home into Philadelphia or NYC. "There are these massive industrial rigs all along the highway, and they churn out a TON of smog and steam. At night they have thousands of yellow lights shining all over them and it is really menacing, but in a way, very beautiful. My parents told me that this was where clouds came from: Cloud Machines. Every time we would drive by them, I would smile."
With the PR expertise of Mary Ann Naylor (Church Of Girl Records), Cloud Machines received notable press coverage from national publications such as Curve Magazine whom said Swallows sophomore effort was "filled with dark but perky emo-psyechdelia-grunge that owes as much to DIY punk as it does to 70's art rock". The band continued to perform live in Oregon and California to promote the record gaining recognition in other publications such as the SF Bay Guardian, Portland Mercury, Willamette Week, Just Out, URB Magazine and LocalCut.
released November 20, 2007
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