Giant Swan are bringing space to the dancefloor. Channelling chaos and tranquillity in equal measure, the Bristol-based electronic duo, comprised of Robin Stewart and Harry Wright, have never done things in a hurry. Their special brand of “techno-non-techno” is full-bodied in execution but sparse in temperament. This project is a jump from their other band, The Naturals, a guitar-orientated four piece that’s become more experimental over the years.
The only way to enjoy Giant Swan is to let them encompass you wholly. Industrial sounds hit you like a wall, but it’s the subtle intricacies of blissed-out drone, ambient textures and erratic beats bubbling underneath that puts them at the forefront of their scene. Armed with pedal boards and their voices, their set is entirely improvised. No show is ever the same, constituted of free-form movements, rather than a programmed setlist. In spite of the unruly nature of their live shows, the two run a tight ship – their intuitions play off each other so naturally, it’s easy to forget they’re making it up as they go along.
However, Giant Swan is a project borne out of the sheer desire to bring the fun back into the rave, which is something Harry and Robin both say is missing from a lot of dancefloors. “Techno is supposed to be about celebrating unity and losing inhibitions, with everyone under one roof united, living for the weekend. There is less of that around now – there are a lot more chin-strokers, and it’s arguably the most po-faced genre at the moment,” declares Harry. “When you get these social areas brought up within the techno world there seems to be a lot of contradictory attitudes and entitlement, both from the audience and DJs.”
Dance music, at its core, is built on the politics of tolerance, mutual understanding, and, above all, inclusivity. However, the genre still remains a hostile territory for marginalised groups of people. While Giant Swan’s music isn’t explicitly political, the environments they find themselves performing in are – there’s a sense of collective responsibility that is shared by both artists and audience members in positions of privilege, and that’s something they’re both aware of during their sets. Harry and Robin both speak about it openly, without caveat. “It’s good for us to know our place within it – we’re not trying to represent a group or a movement or a genre, but rather be open-minded and engage in new opinions and discussions to further our knowledge,” Robin unpacks. “I think a lot of people aren’t prepared to admit they haven’t got it all worked out yet. We’d be the first to admit our principles, opinions and politics in the dancefloor are still changing and growing.” And with each show they play, with each set that spirals intuitively into wild, head-spinning intensity, it really feels like they are.
Sounds Like: Apocalyptic, drone-driven techno with melodic undertones
Soundtrack For: Losing your shit in a sticky basement party
Our Favourite Tune: IFTLOYL
File Next To: Container / The Body
Where to Find Them: @GiantGiantSwan
Giant Swan perform live at Crack Magazine’s event at Patterns, Brighton, 19 May. The duo are participating in this year’s SHAPE Platform, supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.