[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
How they’ve been waiting for an Out Out album like this and by they I mean the folks who checked out after ‘Voiceprint’. Instead of building on the momentum he’d generated after four highly regarded albums in the 1990s this gentleman chose to disappear. He next came back to us in 2006 sporting a techno-driven sound on his own label that threw more than a few sets of ears; after that came his last “official” record, 2008’s ‘Assumed Outrivaling’ which was an extraterrestrial shot of space age audio design right out of the fourth dimension.
Since then, Mark Miller has retreated from the public eye, opting to run his studio and stare at monitors while others make noise.
He broke the seal on his own project again with the recent ‘Asteroid 99’ release which proved to be even more experimental than what he’d given us previously; it continues to reveal new layers with each listen. All that time out there in the hinterlands of his own personal creativity must have run it’s course because ‘Swan/Dive?’ has all the facets to it his fanbase have been clamoring for; more succinctly he hasn’t been this accessible or direct in nearly two decades. Those incendiary vocals and dive-bombing guitars are back as well as the beats which keep you from remaining still. On top of all this are the two forks driving things into the red: advanced production techniques and fury. Man is he angry on some of this.
You would be, too, if you’d been watching the way everything’s been heading for the last fifteen years or so. You wouldn’t have much faith in human nature anymore, you’d have absolutely no belief in the authorities. Out Out turn up the bile and point it at the talking heads who purport to love their country more than anyone else; he’s venting and spewing disgust towards the screen and I’m yelling right along with him. It’s the hypocrisy he finds so repellent; he’s not alone. At this point, I’ll have to state to any non-us readers that a couple of tracks on here are pointed directly at the political parties and the processes they employ to remain in power stateside. Beyond that, though, is a man who as usual likes to keep things relateable to all who tune in.
‘Swan/Dive?’ is anything but an exclusive party, everyone is free to join in. If there were still pirate radio stations popping up like poisonous fungi, ‘Swan/Dive?’ would feature prominently in their playlists.
We who enjoyed his more esoteric works are certainly not left out of the proceedings; you can hear this best on the track “Like William Tell” where clever wordplay and devilishly composed rhythms run back and forth across your synapses with unerring precision. There are a pair of tunes where he sings, yes actually sings while psychedelic guitars swirl about downtempo rhythms and prescient atmospheres. I did not expect that he’d take the route he does on “…And Everyone Wants to be With You” or “The Overload” and yet he did, you cannot predict what he’s going to pull out of the hat and this would explain why over 25 years later I’m still listening to what he creates.
For additional listening pleasure he’s curated a bonus disc of remixes to please even the most difficult palate. Now generally when the phrase remix album gets mentioned my gag reflex switches into overdrive but I’ve no qualms saying that ‘For Divers Reasons’ (isn’t he clever) contains not a single dud. There aren’t even any mixes that have time to become tedious. Miller does a few of his own but others like the ones Jeff Hudson, UNCX! and Circus of Dead Squirrels provide are just incredible. I’m only mentioning some of them because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, trust me, no one’s having to carry anyone else along for the ride.
Out Out have been out there (oh shut up) recording stunning albums an inordinate amount of time now and while many names have come and gone in the interim, he plays to his strengths and doesn’t put anything out until it has been meticulously crafted. His penchant for detail has not changed nor has his ability to mix multiple styles into a cohesive whole which utterly defies categorization; maybe this is your first time hearing him or perhaps you’re a veteran like myself who just can’t stop listening… we’ll both enjoy the hell out of this record but for vastly different reasons and therin lies the reason for his longevity and continual innovation: his work is unlike anyone else’s, love it or hate it you know when it’s him.
This is a guy who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’ and for that I’ll always be grateful.