Review: Dry Cleaning – Swampy EP

Artwork for Dry Cleaning's 2023 EP Swampy

Dry Cleaning are still pushing the right buttons on their latest release.

Of all the bands we regularly cover, Dry Cleaning always prompt some of the most passionate reader opinions.

First emerging from south London with the Sweet Princess EP in 2018, the quartet’s rise to prominence has surprised some (and mortified others) likely because their distinctive brew of indie and post punk is topped off by the unique spoken word delivery of singer Florence Shaw.

They were also part of a cabal of groups who arrived at roughly the same time – including black midi and Black Country, New Road – that revelled in being outliers, a gang of sorts also known for mischievously shunning recognizable forms.

Released last year, Dry Cleaning’s second album Stumpwork however added greater musical depth, bolstering trademark awkwardness with a handful of bold experiments in leftfield pop.

Swampy is packaged as a companion to Stumpwork, with a couple of new songs that were laid down during the album’s recording sessions.

Of these, Sombre Two lives up to its title; an arid, darkly jazz instrumental that barely nudges over two minutes, whilst the title-track is a more familiar dousing of scratchy guitar and improvised non-sequiturs: ‘We thought they might be ashamed, but they weren’t/Look, contact me for all kinds of spells.’

That line may only serve to confirm what Shaw’s red-faced critics have said all along. However, given its brevity the demo version of Peanuts that closes has a surprising amount going for it, the oddly comforting sax providing the lion’s share.

Attention then falls to the pair of remixes; Nourished By Time’s versioning of Gary Ashby leaving the janglesome original more or less intact whilst Dry Cleaning’s tour mates Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul give Hot Penny Day a sketchy, programmed beat workout that is in real life far more absorbing than that sounds.

Slight and giving the impression of a bundle of ideas often at right angles to each other, Swampy is a concoction that mostly intrigues rather than thrills.

It sure won’t satisfy those perma-angry men who love PROPER MUSIC and ring into daytime talk shows, but equally it should really up their blood pressure, which regardless of anything else here is definitely a very good thing.

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