Swimming Pool: Good Old Music

On their second album, the German duo capture all the elements of classic dance music save one -- human beings.

Swimming Pool

Good Old Music

Label: Combination
US Release Date: 2006-06-06
UK Release Date: Unavailable

Swimming Pool's Michael Scheibenreiter and Stefan Schwander were credited with inventing something called "dub'n'bass" on their 2002 debut. Now, having gotten innovation out of the way, they've aspired to Good Old Music on their second disc. Good Old dance music, that is. These guys must have had a very unique upbringing in Düsseldorf, because their idea of timeless fun turns out to be sterile, minimal, softly undulating electronica.

Good Old Music is bizarre in the way it references its influences . The first track is called "Chic Plaza", and it's followed by "Bernard". You can be sure it's not the guy from New Order Scheibenreiter and Schwander are talking about. If you thought Power Station was a strange way to pay homage to Chic, well, this is even stranger. It's true, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Tony Thompson and co. specialized in a super-slick, almost mechanically tight sound. But the songs were so joyful and the rhythm section so funky, that there could be only humans behind it all. Not so with Swimming Pool. They seem to have forgotten that a lot of the fun in dance music comes from the give and take, the juxtaposition between man and machine -- regardless of what Kraftwerk would like everybody to think.

Based on "Chic Plaza", you might actually think that Good Old Music has gotten it right. The classic disco elements -- staccato strings, elastic bass; steady, pulsing rhythm -- are all in place, although they're performed exclusively on synths. Sweet 'n' mellow keyboard chords fill in the open spaces, and for a while there it feels like you've stepped into a none-too-ambitious but completely danceable update of 1978. It's interesting to imagine, though, how the late Edwards might have reacted to the tense, repetitive, downbeat electronica of "Bernard". Quite possibly by yawning.

And so it goes. Simple, downer rhythms that establish themselves after a couple of bars and hardly change ("I'm Thirtyfour"), loopy Giorgio Moroder-meets-Nature-Store meandering ("Last Night..."), stabs at old school electro-house ("The Bilk Madness"), none of which is decisive enough to have much impact. In a late attempt at a comeback, "Carpet Sweeper" establishes the easygoing, effortless momentum that Scheibenreiter and Schwander have been going for all along, and closer "Soul Made Pling" is a nice bit of music box mellowness.

Good-natured album titles and Chic references aside, "hidden" track "Dark Horse Twinkles" might hint at where Swimming Pool's hearts are really at. It's a creepy, distorted trawl through an electronic underbelly that has more to do with Aphex Twin than house or disco. It's more interesting than anything else on Good Old Music, so why hide it? An album's worth of this stuff might be better suited to Swimming Pool, and the title would still apply. Who says Richard D. James never has any fun?




Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.


Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.


Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.


Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.


Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.


Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.


Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream)

John Prine's former guitarist and musical director, Jason Wilber steps out with a new album, Time Traveler, featuring irreverent, pensive, and worldly folk music.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.