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Track-by-Track: Valerian Swing Pore Over Their New Album ‘Liminal’

Valerian Swing guitarist Francesco Giovanetti breaks down for us the band’s new album ‘Liminal’ in this exclusive track-by-track.

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Valerian Swing, photo by Gianpiero Puricella
Valerian Swing, photo by Gianpiero Puricella

Music doesn’t always have to push boundaries, but extra credit should go to artists like Valerian Swing for being willing to take significant risks. It’s what they’ve done with their brand new album Liminal. The trio’s fourth studio record ventures off into unconventional, and for them, foreign musical territory. It’s the type of album that acts often come up with at this point in their career. It’s experimental and dares to be different. The band has conjured up influences from all over the musical spectrum. From contemporary film scores to jazz to electronic music, and to math and post-rock, the members of Valerian Swing show great ambition and purpose.

With it being seven years since the release of their previous album Nights, the band had lots of time to finetune this new offering. If you compare the two records, you’ll take note of their evolved musical palette. Part of the aesthetic that evolved with Liminal came due to the band operating in two different countries. The members are stationed in both Italy and Germany which makes recording and rehearsing a challenge. So they made good use of the technology available to them such as Ableton. This software really helped them exchange ideas with each other and ultimately the music evolved as a result. The change in process led to them viewing their music differently and a new level of artistic freedom.

To more fully delve into Liminal, guitarist Francesco Giovanetti joins us today for a track-by-track rundown of the album, going into great detail on the writing and production of each song.

1. “Gor-ai”

“The opening track of The Liminal is a development of riffs written during our ‘Nights’ tour. It all started with the central syncopated cembalo/synth-bass pattern, which was literally written on tour, on a ferry, using a laptop keyboard. We found that it was the best way to connect our more guitar-oriented, math-rock previous works with Liminal, which is obviously more experimental and synth-oriented. It serves as a bridge between our past and present selves.

“This is probably the most complicated track to play, with many atmospheric changes: very Morriconian (grazie maestro) and cinematic, but also tight, bouncing synth polyrhythms. The drums split between IDM-esque patterns and something nicely close to jazz. The final part is epic. There are a few seconds in the middle of the song where it seems like everything is going to explode. Actually, the very end also explodes. Well, it’s the beginning of the album, and since we hadn’t released anything for quite a while, we wanted to make fireworks for both ourselves and you.”

2. “Atacama I”

“‘Atacama I’ shows many atmospheres as well. It’s less dark than ‘Gor-ai,’ more spaced out: there are desolate guitar riffs over hopeful, lush synth pads. Huge basses shake the listeners. Then our drummer David (Ferretti) quotes Gene Krupa, and the song mutates into an ’80s adrenalized hymn. It’s good for cars, I think, even though I don’t have one. It’s not finished yet because then the track evolves again into an even more desolate section, where the dreamy and psychedelic side of this album truly starts to show up.

“The track gives off positive vibes, in my opinion. There are a few dramatic moments, but it ends pretty well. Like weird early mornings where you experience sleep paralysis, dream of a monster or your mother, but wake up blessed against all odds. Rise and shine.

Valerian Swing ‘Liminal’ album artwork

Valerian Swing ‘Liminal’ album artwork

3. “Badman (Ting) feat. Flowdan”

“Sometimes incredible stuff happens. We had a song with not too many changes, which is already a miracle—quite straightforward and catchy with wonderful drumming. We tried to put an a cappella by Flowdan over it. It sounded great. Then we contacted Flowdan himself, and he recorded this masterpiece. The track is amazing, and we are still speechless about it.”

4. “The Ritual”

“This is the longest and darkest track on the album. It’s a long suite that connects dots between many influences like Angelo Badalamenti, industrial, black metal, and post-rock. It’s very long and heavy, with drone elements that could be heard in our other works. The end is a catharsis; there is something truly liberating in it. It reminds me of a storm, with lightning and thunder and all the fear that comes with it. Performing it live is intense—let’s hope we don’t fly away. Or maybe yes.”

5. “Indigo” (feat. Giovanna Cacciola)

“This track is very special. It is sung by Giovanna Cacciola, the singer of Uzeda. Literally a living legend. Uzeda is probably the highest example of where you can go with a certain attitude: from Catania to Olympus. I hear bravery coming from her voice—it’s powerful, rough, delicate, and most of all, extremely human. It is such a gift for us to have this collaboration, and I don’t often get emotional hearing what we did, but this is an exception.

“The instrumental part is the most experimental and abstract in the whole album, and considering that Uzeda is famous for their minimal bass-guitar-drum sound, it is quite unusual to hear Giovanna’s voice on these synths and minimalist piano excursions.”

6. “Pond Riddim”

“It all started from an Ableton project by me, Francesco, which was supposed to be something between a stepper and a dancehall track for my own project. Obviously, something went wrong (or right), and it became a track that I honestly struggle to define. It’s like a bubble of unknown material coming close to you and speaking a language you don’t know but understand.

“Apart from this Lynchian example, ‘Pond Riddim’ has reminiscences of trip-hop, samples from Gregorian chants, acid jazz trumpets, weird syncopations, and huge basses. It was the first single to come out because somehow it’s the most representative track of the album and its spirit: music freedom.”

7. “Home”

“This is the last track. I would say it’s the farthest point from the music Valerian Swing started playing many moons ago. It’s far but at the same time feels really close. The hectic tempos are gone; the Naked City-infused drumming is chilled and sparse. The melodies are distant, and samples of reggaeton music appear—yes, reggaeton, the most hated music probably from the rock/metal/HC/whatever community.

“There’s a broken motorik moment at the beginning like Krautrock passed through our rehearsal room and ate something with us, leaving the smell of fermented cabbage. Then the music becomes both distant and very close. The synth pads hug you, not with nostalgia or retro genre feelings, but in a really ‘present’ moment. There is no past perspective. I’m not really sure how to translate this into words; actually, it’s music to listen to and write, fortunately.”

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