Swim Surreal – Don’t Call It Love

Swim Surreal proudly share their highly anticipated debut album, In The Half Light, released today on Make Records. Spanning nine tracks, the album features the recently released singles “The Crowd,” “Bloom,” and the standout track “Don’t Call It Love.”



It was late. The phone reverberated on the bedside table. The sound signaled another dispatch from the mercurial Californian musician Swim Surreal, no doubt fresh from another cosmic splash in the Pacific. The email, directed to Zero 7, was sparse of text. Attached, however, was an innocent-looking audio file. Curiosity dictated the next move.

Swim Surreal’s soulful croon crackled through the speaker, dancing around a sun-dappled melody. A taste of the West Coast shot into the atmosphere, landing wherever technology would take it. In this case, North London.

These were paths that had crossed before. In 2013, Zero 7 and Swim Surreal had joined forces to make “Don’t Call It Love,” a hidden gem, buried away on an obscure white-label release.

This audio file reminded them of the potential. There was more where that came from.

All they had to do was pin down this benevolent, mysterious dude who brought both the sunshine spirit and romantic rainclouds from LA to a world beyond its borders.

And so, a dialogue resumed. Swim Surreal peppered the Sevs with demos. They would arrive sporadically, the music in all shapes and forms, his rich timbre self-accompanied on either piano or guitar. Sometimes, there’d be no music at all – just a digressive 5-minute audio file excitedly describing Salvador Dali’s belief that a train station in Perpignan, Spain, was the center of the creative universe. It was unpredictable, but intriguing too.

Looking back, it was an experience of about-turns, detours, kernels of ideas abandoned and then picked up, and dropped again. There was little structure. They were never sure of what they had or where they were going. But sometimes, things have a momentum of their own. It’s the ineffable magic of music-making and the component that makes something so uniquely special…and addictive.

Slowly but surely, sketches gave way to fleshed-out songs. Through a fog of uncertainty, a record emerged. Its sound was inviting, intimate and inclusive. Swim Surreal’s lyrics lovelorn, heartbroken, defiant, and emphatic, a melange of confliction. Were they autobiographical? Or was this discontent a mere mirage? Perhaps they were simply an exorcism of demons long past? It is hard to know.

Once the album was in the can, they turned to local artist Jo Binns, who’s evocative landscape paintings complete the picture and aid the imagination on its merry wander.

Lead single ‘The Crowd’ sums up the record’s mood. A slice of subtly psychedelic soul undercut by plaintive electric piano and driving bass motif, its warm soundscape evokes late-night, summertime adventures and bittersweet self-reflection. The following eight tracks take the listener on a similar journey.

‘Bloom’ saunters seductively before surrendering to a chorus so catchy it should come with a health warning, ‘Say Nothing’ is a breezy slice of yacht soul. ‘Back To Earth’, fuelled by disco strings, is contemplation as the summer sun burns, while the neon-lit atmospherics of ‘Masquerade’ are topped by a super-smooth falsetto from guest vocalist Lou Stone.

Elsewhere, there’s the irresistible instrumental ‘Less Talk’. The spare, ambient throb of “Exile” which houses some of the angriest words on the record (“An ocean in between us is not far enough/Stay gone”) and leads listeners into the gentle healing offered by the sublime closing piano ballad, ‘An Endless Wave’.

“Don’t Call It Love” sits at the album’s center. As the initial spark that took us to the present, it’s arguably the beating heart of this collection – spiritually, at least. Swim Surreal transports listeners to another time, place, and mental space. Nine songs telling a tale that begun in the half light and, somehow, resides there still.

Swim Surreal’s debut album, In the Half Light, transports listeners to another time, place, and mental space. Nine songs telling a tale that began in the half-light and, somehow, resides there still.