Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.14.08

The Four-Track’s Best Friend
Less=more for Richard Swift
by Jeremy Ohmes 

In the pro-gear, pro-attitude, ProTools world of digital recording perfection, where the overdubs are endless, the happy accidents are nonexistent and the vocals are one click away from pitch-perfect, the friend of the four-track recorder is an antediluvian anomaly, like someone who writes on a typewriter or, even more extreme, sends letters in the mail. Cash-strapped, unkempt, holed up in a cluttered bedroom with early Dylan, Kinks and Motown records scattered across the floor, the four-track musician lives in an out-of-touch world. The old-fashioned lo-fi aesthetic is nice and all, but friends constantly suggest, “Why don’t you book some time in a real studio? You know, make a real record.” The recording dinosaur shrugs, records 30 more songs and releases two new albums in the time it would take to “professionally produce” one hit single. The friend of the four-track knows that music isn’t all about gloss or sheen or 26 tracks of tambourine — that’s digital masturbation. If you can’t say something simply, then why say it at all? The four-track distills music down to its most basic elements and beautifully captures another antiquated concept — less is more. 

Richard Swift knows this, and that’s why Richard Swift is the four-track’s best friend. The curly-mopped and mustachioed Cottage Grover loves his lo-fi, and you can hear it all over his new free digital (I never said he was a Luddite) downloadable EP, Ground Trouble Jaw. The five-song EP, which comes on the heels of his doo-wop garage stomp double album (released in April), transports you back to the halcyon days of the four-track not only in technique but also in sound. From the ’60s girl group soul jams of “Would You” and “Lady Luck” to the ’50s street-fighting falsetto of “The Bully” to the quirky Harry Nilsson-meets-Prince synth pop of “The Original Thought” and “A Song for Milton Fehrer,” the EP proudly displays, warts and all, Swift’s versatility with his favorite recording friend — one that asks for so little but still produces a big sound. 

Richard Swift. 8 pm, Monday, Aug. 18. Axe and Fiddle • FREE. 21+ show