If you’re into the likes of Bon Iver, Jack Savoretti and James Bay, the chances are you’ll like Russell Swallow. And if not, now is your chance to change that.
Russell Swallow is one of those lucky pre-Brexit kids who has spent the last two years living between London and Berlin. Using confessional lyrics, and allegorical storytelling, he creates songs that resonate from hushed prayers to indie epics. Inspired by Ray Lamontagne and Jeff Buckley, Swallow taught himself to write songs. “The best £20 I ever spent was at the age of 14 when I picked up a guitar from the local Salvation Army charity shop in Suffolk”, he said. It wouldn’t be long until he was blending his passion for poetry and short stories, with his newfound love of indie-driven sounds.
His first single, ‘Chemicals’, is a powerful introduction to debut solo EP, ‘AM-BPM’; which features Irish singer/songwriter Kal Lavelle as a guest vocalist. Uplifting and ethereal, his singing is enveloped in a soundscape of rhythmic guitar. Classic analogue synths and pulsating electronic grooves are overlayed to a track which was recorded through the night in an East London warehouse.
‘Chemicals’ serves as a love letter to his adopted home in Berlin. Speaking of Berlin, he said, “I have found a lot of peace of mind in Berlin. Life is affordable there. So instead of chasing rent, which I was doing in London, I’m comfortable and have time to stretch myself as a writer. I can experiment, collaborate, make mistakes, play on the streets and perform throughout the city”. He does split his time between Berlin and London though. “There’s an inspiring quality of music in each. I’m kept on my toes and open to opportunities”.
Today we see the accompanying video go live; with a performance that is a step away from the typical studio-meets-live visual. ‘Chemicals’ makes use of the natural reverberations of the setting, and visually sits in a class of its own. Speaking of the setting, Swallow recalled how a friend had told him about Devil’s Mountain. Which is also known as Teufelsberg in South West Berlin. “It’s long been abandoned”, he said. “It was originally built to be a listening tower. At the height of the Cold War, U.S. and British intelligence agents built state-of-the-art listening towers and rotating antennas to spy on East Berlin and Soviet communications. They would listen in on the secrets of the Communist Bloc”.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the site was abandoned and left to decay. It is pocketed by extraordinary work from graffiti artists and people finding it for weekend parties. It’s history inevitably continues…