The productions of Reba Fay, aka Swan Meat, are often disarmingly tranquil, given their placement in the frenetic, glitch-indebted sample mashup scenes frequented by the likes of PAN, Staycore and Bala Club. The Cologne-based artist has the rare ability to cram an album’s worth of ideas into a single two or three minute track without overcrowding the picture. In short, there is beauty among the chaos; melancholic choir vocals find their place nestled between staccato sound poems, sullen acoustic guitars riff their way between power-drill sound design, and whirling ambience and moments of psychedelic summer bliss prelude apocalyptic percussive workouts.
Lately, however, these hints of a more meditative side to Fay’s productions have come into sharper focus. Her ‘Lathe of Heaven’ release, for example, centres on synthetic washes of ambience and delicate melodies, realised through the medium of MIDI string tonalities. There is a nostalgia to these sounds for anyone who grew up glued to their games console, and in fact Fay has taken direct inspiration from her own experience of role-playing games (RPG) for her most recent work.
“Growing up shy, games were the ultimate social panacea”, she begins when asked about how this inspiration has translated into her productions. “Have a hard time looking your friends in the eye? It’s OK, we can just play Soul Calibur II together. Not only that, but games have always provided great and necessary escapism; across a variety of genres, the best games are exercises in the artful coming together of worlds: storytelling, music, theatre, empathy. I know I wasn’t the only kid who’d sprint home from school to play Final Fantasy VII and Ocarina of Time, who sought solace from the trauma of growing up in those games. However, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to realise how being so invested in gaming as a kid has impacted the way I write music and the way I’m drawn to certain motifs, sounds and harmonisations.”
Currently, Fay is feeding these influences, alongside two short stories she wrote last year, into plans for a full-length release. “The thing still needs quite a bit of work”, she responds when we enquire further about the planned LP. “But I’m working on an album for which I’d like to see a vinyl release. Each side traces the narrative arcs, of [the] two short stories. Side A [will be] symphonic, with traces of that aforementioned RPG influence; side B being quite gloomy and percussive. It will come out at the end of the summer alongside a little book. ”
Poetry was the intial reference point for the Swan Meat project, and although it has developed and altered over the years, it will still be just as intrinsic to Fay’s latest work. “So long as I continue writing, poetry will be woven into the songs I make”, she answers when asked about its place in the planned album. “However, over the past year most of what I’ve released wasn’t, I don’t think, structured around poetry and didn’t use poetry as [its] backbone. I’m having more fun this way – realising that my voice can come through in my production style sans that explicit link to my ‘fleshy’ body. In retrospect, I think I was hiding behind poems.”
Fay’s contribution to our mix series gives a taste of her current influences and inspirations for the forthcoming album, from soundtracks to games like Paladin’s Quest, Clock Tower or Fatal Frame, as well as soundtracks to films like Under The Skin Ringu or John Carpenter’s The Fog.