Swimming | Ellipses
Time: August 2011
Media: CD & Digital Download
Info: Swimming blurs the lines between what's played
and what's placed, managing a wealth of detail but
allowing acres of space between the instruments. In
Devon’s own words, “For me, this album is a bit like
whispering vague, almost inaudible, advice into the
mirror”. Attempting to capture ineffable emotions and
sensations, it is music as process, stretching toward
Artist site: http://www.swimmingaway.net
PDF Press Release: Download
QUESTIONS | Swimming
Who are you?
My name is Devon, I grew up near San Francisco and
I now live in the redwood forest of Humboldt County,
northern California. In university I studied biochemistry,
critical theory, and music. I like reading, drinking tea
and riding my bike. I play guitar and drums, as well as
turning knobs, pressing buttons and moving a mouse.
Why do you write music?
In order to express things that other kinds of language
cannot. I consider music, and creativity in general, one
of the fundamental aspects of human nature (if such a
thing even exists). I don't know what I would do if I
didn't play music. It's been a necessity since I can
How would you describe your music?
It varies a lot. I would say that much of it is a
combination of acoustic and electronic elements. I think
some of it is very pretty and delicate. Some of it is
harsh. There is a lot of guitar and digital manipulation.
I'd like to think that it is emotive, psychedelic, and
rewards careful listening.
What does this album mean to you?
This album was written over my last 2 years at
university. Most of it is very personal and was an
attempt to process what was going on in my life at the
time. Love, fear, desire, nostalgia, and growing up are
all persistent themes. To me, this album is like
whispering vague, almost inaudible, advice into the
Can you elaborate on some of your creative
My process is usually highly improvisational. Many
pieces just start with a few notes on a guitar, a texture,
or a random sound. I build around a core with
improvisations on various instruments and pieces of
gear, or plugins, or whatever until something that I
really like starts to emerge from the mess. When a
form starts to crystallize and a concept becomes more
clear, I start editing things down, and recording specific
parts that I imagine. Then everything goes thru an
obsessive phase of moving chunks of audio around
by milliseconds, resampling, drawing automation
curves, etc… Sometimes a piece will just come easy,
fully conceptualized, but that is fairly rare.
What are your future plans?
To tour more, to record a lot more music, do remixes,
to play and improvise with musicians from around the
world. Also, I'd like to figure out effective ways to
contribute to the dismantling of neoliberal capitalism
and build a more just world...
|REVIEWS | Ellipses
The music that comes under the name of Swimming is all about a musician who goes by the name of Devon. He’s
based in Arcata, California.
He plays guitar, drums, and ‘objects made from metal and plastic with wires carrying electricity,’ at least,
according to the website, nonetheless, I’m sure many will agree, it’s an intriguing combination.
His latest release under the name of Swimming – Ellipses, presents a very experimental electronic fusion of
acoustic guitar work, showcasing plenty of raw clarity and melody. If we’re gazing towards sharp shifting waters,
then this one flows beautifully into previously unseen territories that are ripe with individual art form without being
To give an idea, “(Aspirated) plosives” opens with polished, mechanical clasps – a forgery of sounds, all busy at
work and featuring intricate and metallic creative percussion sounds that mesh together in zig zag forms. “We Fill
Gaps” continues, introducing some deep enriched acoustic guitar tones is – think expressively sharp strumming set
against ever expanding beats. The work creates an exotic picture in a rather quaint setting. This is not to say it
lacks current and its far from the last we see of such imagery. The acoustic strumming and picking actions are
quite prominent throughout – something that makes this release quite original. “Anyhow” displays plenty more
where that came from – full of organic beat work that is natural and penetrating, surrounded by a rich tide of
acoustic guitar inspired seascape. The percussive aspect builds upon vast backdrops, thus creating many
textures – all with affected vocal work.
Within another unique chapter lies “What Duties (1…2….3).” Its urban sounding beats of distinction rule and there’s
a drum and bass styled break out before a slowing of pulse allows more smoother threads of melody to be woven
in – introducing the now less exaggerated beats. Its final movement edges into a hopscotch action.
Overall it’s an affluent and passionate work. Its roots, which are made up of varied beats of specific and careful
placement, allow it to grow, develop and flourish, creating a swollen effect that exercises a careful blend of
acoustic guitar melody, bass, and beads of intricately placed percussion – the result being a poignant musical
essence. A brightly augmented search through its own vibrant soundscape. A dazzling theatrical tendency
coupled with full on electro experimentation.
That Devon Ferrucci's a drummer (among other things) is readily apparent from even a cursory listen to Ellipses,
the California-based musician's forty-five-minute debut album under the Swimming alias. The project's been
alive in one form or another since 2003, despite the fact that he's found himself occasionally sidetracked by
other projects (such as the band thelittlestillnotbigenough). In addition to drums, Ferrucci plays guitar and metal
objects along with the expected computer gear. Scatterings of static and other electronic textures lend the
material a conspicuous glitch dimension that's offset by the acoustic shimmer of cymbal accents, drums, and
guitar. As a result, the music sometimes forms a bridge between post-rock and electronic music of the kind
Oval once produced.
Like some future, post-digital incarnation of drum'n'bass, the opening track “(Aspirated) Plosives” pairs skittish
electronics and an equally hyperactive persussive playfulness, with all of it cohering within his computer into some
semblance of organization. Were the album to consist of nothing more than variations on that theme, it wouldn't
leave all that lasting an impression, but Ellipses impresses elsewhere for its compositional quality. Though it too is
a complex construction in its own right, “We Fill Gaps,” for example, possesses a dreamy melodic character that
elevates it beyond the opener, while “Pretending to Have a Heart Attack,” in contrast to its flippant title, opts for a
dramatic mood that exerts a strong emotional pull. During “Hourglass With Snow,” micro-lattices of electronics and
harp sounds (courtesy of Rebekah Dickens) evoke the crystalline sparkle created when sunbeams strike freshly
fallen snow, and his acoustic drumming skills receive a thorough workout during “What Duties (1...2...3)!,” which
could easily pass for one of Squarepusher's studio experiments, with the only thing missing Tom Jenkinson's
signature bass playing.
One of the biggest strengths of Ellipses is its stylistic variety, as there are as many restrained moments as harder-
hitting ones on the album. After “Body Without Organs” sprinkles micro-computer sounds over a simulated jam
involving a tabla player and electric guitarist, for instance, “Ellipsis Pt. 1” presents what could pass for a bucolic,
back-porch exercise in folktronica (especially when hushed wordless vocals are included for additional
atmosphere). The album's material apparently came together during Ferrucci's last two years of university and
thus a relatedly autobiographical character suggests itself in some tracks, the wistful “Serious Cycling (A New
Yorker in Winter)” one such case in point and “Ale Study” perhaps another, even if the latter's less a drinking song
than post-rock excursion of the kind one might hear on an n5MD release. Rooted to some degree in improvisational
strategies, Ferrucci's music exudes a loose and organic feel, much like a microbiological entity that simultaneously
mutates and re-defines itself at each moment. That unpredictable quality is certainly one of the things that helps
distinguish Ellipses from other releases in the electro-acoustic genre.
Ellipses" is the debut album for Swimming, aka Devon Ferrucci, from Arcata, CA. His music seems to go through a
lot of processing and reworking, with fragments and layers of guitars, keyboards, occasional whispers and hums,
lots of beats and percussion instruments, denoting a true sense of imagination, a natural inclination for complexity
and an idea of perfectionism mixed with sincerity. While listening, I sometimes have to impression to be confronted
with several records playing at the same times, sometimes mixed or just superimposed. Devon Ferrucci doesn't
seem to be a defender and fan of minimalism, stacking his ideas of structure and textures instead of synthesizing
I think, there is enough matter inside "Ellipses" to compose two good albums and a bad one and instead he is
offering the whole in 45 minutes and 13 tracks. It is for him the result of two years of improvisation and intensive
composition, with a patient work on textures and structures. If it often looks like a crowded catalog of ideas and
feelings, it is mostly consistent and he avoids saturation while keeps an obvious fluidity, though at times we are
closer to viscosity.
I feel like descending metro escalators on "(aspirated) plosives", a slow move and transfer between two
destinations, crossing people following the opposite direction, like floating under fluorescent lights, in an enclosed
"We fill the gaps" is much more interesting, built around a slow melancholic guitar theme, completed with beats as
wavelets at sea. There is an interesting balance between the pensive pastoral slowness of the strings and the
gentle playfulness of the rhythms. A similar compositions follows with "Anyhow" but with a sunnier acoustic
guitar and processed spoken word. It is maybe not as striking but relatively similar to what Apeiron did on their
"Todo sigue intacto" album and it is certainly a direction to explore further.
Drum's bass rhythms on "what duties (1...2...3) !" which I find hard to digest but the second part is just sublime,
when they recede, letting the forefront to a nice reverberated and processed arpeggiated electric guitar.
"Hourglass with snow" is conceived with a layer of processed harp sounds in the background and flows naturally
as walking down a treeline pavement, on your way home, under pleasant weather. “Ellipsis Pt. 1” is an ambient
folk song full of whispers, and you just wish he would have turned his humming into real lyrics and vocals,
because you have this "nice but could have been better" impression on the tip of your tongue all along. The
frustration only grows bigger with the “Ellipsis Pt. 2” which sounds like a perfect rythmic backbone for this same
song, with even a second guitar. Part 1 + Part 2 + expected vocals would have achieved potentially a beautiful
song in the neighborhood of the best sides of Songs of Green Pheasant, Epic45 or Hood.
There are a few tracks which explore a more experimental, abstract, post-rock or jazzy form I can't relate to, like
"Body without organs", "Imagined openings" or "Ale study". After a few spins it becomes clear that the closest
Devon Ferrucci comes to use a melody, the more beautiful his music becomes. Then, you can start to elaborate
shifting emotions and an emotional progression. On "Pretending to have a heart attack" I can fill the dots and
appropriate myself a personal interpretation but it is a frustrating position as this record seems to hesitate between
an ambient form and a more written, shaped and personal expression without never making the choice. Another
example is the deep feeling of nostalgia which invades "Serious cycling (a new yorker in winter)". I think using
ellipses in such a way, not telling everything but instead suggesting is his most precious talent, a track like "Ticky-
tacky" looks like an interlude at first but I you give it the attention requested you realize how much it is moving
and how it can even bring you close to tears.
THE MILK FACTORY
Swimming is a musical endeavour centred around California-based musician Devon Ferrucci. Whilst he records
mostly alone, friends are welcome to drop by and contribute on occasion, and two appear here, one, Anthony
Taibi, adds steel guitar on Pretending To Have A Heart Attack, the other, Rebekah Dickens, adorns Hourglass
With Snow with delicate harp touches. Ferrucci works from a variety of acoustic instruments (guitar, drums
and an array of plastic and metal objects) which he then processes and assembles into coherent sonic
The music on Ellipses, which was recorded during Ferrucci’s last two years at university, was for the most part
improvised. Using a few notes on a guitar or a particular sound or texture as a starting point, these embryos of
ideas were then fed into his computer, worked and reworked until more defined structures started to emerge.
The resulting compositions are rather diverse, going from resolutely intricate acoustic constructions to openly
electronic pieces but, whatever the process, the same attention to detail and thorough approach infuse these
At times, the music is wonderfully pastoral (We Fill Gaps, Hourglass With Snow, Ellipsis Pt. 1), as sounds
resonate around exquisite melodies, which in turn appear to flow from one sequence to the next without ever
breaking up against any coarse structures. Elsewhere, Ferrucci builds up stunning dreamy constructions which
he dips in reverbs to give them a slightly hazier feel (Pretending To Have A Heart Attack), opts for a slightly
tarnished psychedelic finished (Serious Cycling (A New Yorker In Winter)) or tips the balance between
acoustic and electronic slightly in favour of the latter (Ticky-Tacky).
On Body Without Organs, he combines electric guitar, electronic textures and tabla to create a rather intriguing
mood, while the two pieces bookending this record, ((Aspirated) Plosives and Imagined Openings) showcase
some interesting use of tiny percussive sounds and noises which seem to act as sonic filters, purifying the
layers upon which they come across.
Despite of its great variety, Ellipses feels for the most part surprisingly consistent, its delicate structures
flourishing into poetic compositions. While the intense sound processing which serves the whole record is
very tangible, this doesn’t in any way interfere with the lyrical aspect of the finished composition, making this
album a rather delightful offering.
Swimming is the nom de plume of Devon Ferruci, and his new Ellipses album is one-man tour de force of an
album. As is the case with just about everything I have encountered on the Audiobulb label, I find myself
wondering why this music is considered “obscure.” Although there are parts which may be a little more
adventurous than others, much of the record is incredibly melodic.
The 13-song set opens with “(Aspirated) Plosives,” which features various percussive sounds, and acts as a sort
of introductory piece to the album as a whole. Although the motto of Audiobulb is “exploratory electronic music,”
it is the acoustic guitar work of Ferruci which really hooked me. The first instance occurs during track two; “We Fill
Gaps.“ The sound of his guitar weaving in and out of the various instrumental backgrounds is mesmerizing.
To heari Ferruci’s guitar surrounded by the gloriously lush atmospherics of “Hourglass With Snow,” and “Ale Study”
is to hear him in his element. There is also the cheekily off-center percussion he incorporates during “What Duties
(1...2...3)!” and “Body Without Organs,” which serves to keep the listener on their toes.
Never let it be said that Mr. Ferruci does not have a sense of humor when it comes to selecting song titles. To
these ears, the track “Pretending To Have A Heart Attack” is the most elegant piece of music on the album. The
way the composition steadily builds to multiple crescendos is astonishing.
There is always a bit of a sly wink and nod going on just under the surface, and this is most noticeable during
parts one and two of the title track. Preceded by the percussive “Body Without Organs,” “Ellipses Pt. 1” has a
strangely echo-laden sound, behind a very crisp acoustic guitar solo. From there “Pt. 2” explores a strangely
beautiful terrain akin to that of Jimi Hendrix’s “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be).”
These are really just touchstones to give the potential listener an idea of what they will find in the music of
Swimming though. It is an album by turns challenging and beautiful, very often during the same song. Devon
Ferruci is a musician of high caliber, and Ellipses is a very rewarding listen.
DROWNED IN SOUND
Think 13 Smashing Pumpkins intros from the year Billy Corgan’s mother died; think the debut album from Swimming.
Californian biochemist Devon Ferrucci has spent almost ten years readying Ellipses, fine-tuning the shit out of his
production hardware to devise a dozen-plus varieties of rustling. 'Organic ambient' is the term they use now, and
Ferrucci’s pretty good at it: without once raising his heart rate he skirts a rainbow of feelings, ticking off the four
moods ambient music provokes (stoned, exhilarated, stoned while exhilarated and asleep). He’s overlaid the whole
thing with assorted white noise, like he’s sat at a country crossroads for a year and dictaphoned everything
possible, and it’s lit by the kind of spiky electronica that kept Proem famous for years. Sadly, he lacks his
However, Ellipses is still a curious and highly original album; a definite go-to audio source for technicians requiring
UFO music. Luckily it’s as restrained as it is experimental, and tracks like ‘We Fill Gaps’ recall early Xela, back when
he was still playing with bleeps instead of chalices filled with goats’ blood. The soothing guitar patterns promise
hours of relaxation; the digital cymbals quickly yank away the rug. It’s the first of many dichotomies and certainly
not the most subtle: big-screen moment ‘Ale Study’, a thousand times fizzier than its title, has enough attitude to
front a bodyspray commercial, the ambient noises here sounding more like a dislodged dry-stone wall. It’s the most
surprising moment on the album since the typewriters of opener ‘(Aspirated) Plosives’--the rest’s been more about
strings and wrinkled electronics, as shown on ‘Hourglass with Snow’.
Bar the assorted radar tones and the couple of times Audiobulb allow him off the leash, Ferrucci’s energy comes
out as a string of relaxing, multi-instrumental interludes, like going on a river cruise laced with itching powder.
Newcomers to his style will think he’s playing a Hood album backwards: the ambient tickles, guitar skills and
various slime noises all point towards a confused sessions musician, and the likes of ‘Body Without Organs’
sounds like Fleetwood Mac imbibing jungle juice. No other track could mix bongos, tiger growls and feedback into
a such a brilliant spoof of movie shamen scenes. You might think this is just Ferrucci’s bad behaviour peaking at
midpoint, but by the time the penultimate ‘Ticky-Tacky’ rolls around he’s still at it, taking Jóhann Jóhannsson demos
and playing them through walkie-talkies. For anyone who thinks that’s too sober a goodbye, it’s followed by the
burning shrinkwrap noises of ‘Imagined Openings’, jabbing randomly at so many marimbas it approaches the
depths of world music.
Occasionally, though, Ferrucci serves up nuggets of genius that seem to justify his 45 minute ketamine trip.
‘(…)Pt. 2’, title aside, is a masterstroke, and successfully pairs a woodland glimmer with heavier bass and drums.
You can imagine the inventor finally whooping in his lab, a thousand shattered experiments bubbling behind him.
It’s a mystery, then, why he cuts it short at two minutes, and returns to erratic jazz and dolphin-friendly glitch
music (though not before a few more eurekas creep in, such as the cinematic shiver of ‘Pretending to Have a
Heart Attack’). Maybe Ferrucci realises Skytree has already cornered the market in organic ambient, mostly by
trimming the organic side until it behaves itself and fits in with his sequences. By trying to give both elements
equal limelight, Swimming have created a record that treads water. Still, it treads it very interestingly, as skillful
in its strangeness as Mr Bean.
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