Manchester's Avant-Jazzy-Funk outfit Swamp Children were enviably eclectic and Taste What's Rhythm is their mini masterpiece. Flitting gracefully through a feast of genres with consummate ease, the band were almost indefinable and, accordingly, nigh-on impossible to market. So whilst this cult EP, originally out in 1982 on Factory Benelux, remains in demand for those in the know, it has also glided under the radar of many otherwise clued-up heads for over 40 years. If you don't know, get to know.
The Taste Whats Rhythm EP was originally released in 1982 on Factory Benelux (an informal partnership between the legendary Manchester-based Factory Records and Belgium-based Les Disques du Crépuscule). With it's kaleidoscopic brightness, silky panache and superb execution, it remains one of the most startling documents of a remarkable time and place.
The EP opens with the oh-so-Balearic title track. "Taste Whats Rhythm" gently unfolds with a Spanish guitar, hazy, drifting vocals and sun-bleached Latin percussion. After this most sumptuous of intros, the tempo is raised, the rhythms grow in complexity as horns jostle amidst the restrained chaos quite wonderfully. And then it winds down again. Proper fluctuating rhythms and tempos throughout. I guess that was the point - taste the variety!
“You’ve Got Me Beat” is a *perfect* piece of post-punk pop-jazz. A mysterious, after dark jazz-dancer, the aching vocals serve as a touching, tender resignation to love. A guitar hook which seems to elegantly reference The Blackbyrds' "Rock Creek Park" and a flowing pulse from New York's No Wave scene. It still sounds so fresh all these years later.
Closing out this most perfect of EPs, the twisted synths and nimble rhythms of bass-heavy roller "Softly Saying Goodbye" combine to create a super-slinky gem; Brit-Funk of the highest order.
Swamp Children formed in Manchester in 1980, around core members Ann Quigley (vocals), Tony Quigley (bass, metalaphone, percussion), John Kirkham (electric & acoustic guitars, metalaphone, percussion), Ceri Evans (keyboards, bass, percussion, background vocals), Cliff Saffer (saxaphone, clarine) and Martin Moscrop (drums, percussion, trumpet). They initially practised at a rehearsal space shared with fellow post-punk funkers A Certain Ratio and Joy Division/New Order. Young and relatively inexperienced upon getting together, the ages of Swamp Children's members ranged from just 16 to 19. Talk about the brilliance of youth.
From the outset, Swamp Children shared DNA with A Certain Ratio. Martin Moscrop was a founder member of Ratio, while Ann provided artwork for them. Although the close association with ACR led some to assume that Swamp Children were simply a splinter group, the new band pursued a more overt latin and jazz tinged direction, at the same time adopting a post-punk attitude towards making music, influenced by the records they were listening to at the time: Miles Davis, Brazilian jazz fusion and heavy funk dancefloor sides.
The band made their live debut at Manchester's infamous Beach Club in May 1980. Thanks to a double-booking blunder another support band turned up and were turned away, having travelled all the way from Dublin for a string of British dates. The name of the unlucky band was U2...
With arrangements that emphasised Tony Quigley’s darkly-coloured basslines (and Ann Quigley’s impressionistic vocals as another instrument in the mix) Swamp Children possessed an easygoing grace and a bubbling energy which indicated that the band's true strength was as an ensemble. The band’s musical sophistication (a fusion of funk, jazz, and bossa nova) would prove to be a strong influence on later UK acts like Sade. Indeed, Swamp Children themselves later mutated into the more known and acclaimed latin jazz outfit Kalima.
Working directly with James Nice, custodian of Factory Benelux, means that the audio for this re-issue of the classic EP comes from the original tapes. Cut at 45 RPM and released in the house Be With disco sleeve, we’ve made sure this record is well up to the job of having a permanent place in every DJ’s bag. As far as we’re concerned, this is essential stuff.