“Still it eluded me, that thing-in-itself, and it was not until I ventured into the attics and the cellars, my favourite haunts, the forgotten corners, that the past at last blossomed in the present. I paused on the back stairs at twilight, by the potted palm before the door with the green glass panels, and the years were as nothing.”
John Banville’s Birchwood is a deeply, deeply tragic book. But in between all that, there’s something really quite lovely about the moments like this, when the narrator uncovers the mythic power of that ‘thing-in-itself’. He revels in the vivacity of memories of his youth; in the smell of his old attic and the taste of the blackberries he used to pick many autumns ago. That he’s able to do that—dive back into the past—is consoling for our narrator, and, of course, for everyone. Isn’t that what makes us human?
On their latest EP Souvenirs, Swimming Tapes too let the past blossom into the present, reminding us that there’s nothing too indulgent about nostalgia. Perhaps being a little more selective than Banville’s narrator, the five-piece band basks in the glow of their fond, hazy memories of summers past and care-free times. Their daydreams take the shape of languid shoe-gaze melodies, rendered even hazier with woozy, charming reverb—think early-era The Radio Dept. and a slightly softer Real Estate. It’s simplicity with a delicacy that conjures the aquatic aesthetics of their cover art—and their band title. On ‘Souvenirs’, we dive into their jangly guitar melodies and gentle patter of the drums, making long summer Sundays just about imaginable in February. On ‘Cameos’, it’s different—sadder, almost. The twin voices of Louis Price and Robbie Reid cast a rich and weirdly melancholic light on its poppy and summery guitar lines. As Reid says of the song, ‘Cameos’ is “about being far away from a person you want to see more of, dragging yourself through the week while wishing you were somewhere else.”
Sadly, Swimming Tapes seem to be my only offering of the summer feeling, as I sit in the Rad Cam Library rushing an essay and yearn for sunnier climes to come around. They make it sound so easy: “Stay for a spring / Hang around for the summer / Sand in my jeans and shoes.” But that’s totally fine—Swimming Tapes’ EP is easily one of my favourites of the year so far and I’m doubly sad to have missed out on tickets for their first headline show next month. Avoiding cliché, the band revel in nostalgia and the dreaminess it brings to their sound, whilst not making it seem over-indulgent or self-absorbing.
-- Georgina Quach, March 2, 2017