SEX SWING United Kingdom
The locals call it Sop Ruak – eighty thousand square miles of mountains and mystery and unholy medicine. “It really is an endless seam of activity,” Sex Swing frontman Dan Chandler explains of Golden Triangle – both the title of their new album and the region between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos that inspired it. To know this contradictory corner of the world is to understand fully why the cult-beloved noise-rock artisans turned to it when writing their hotly-anticipated third full-length. The real-life Golden Triangle is a groundswell of both natural wonder and drug production, and who combines beauty and narcotic brutality better than Sex Swing? For a decade now, this collective of revered UK underground musicians, comprising members of Earth, Mugstar, The Keep and Jaaw, have been pulling audiences into drug-like slipstreams with their alchemy of pummelling rhythms, towering guitars, and unrelenting saxophone through which glimmers of light occasionally pierce through. No wonder their Golden Triangle is an album telling distortion-shrouded tales from one of the most storied, enigmatic places on the planet, with enough invention within to fill eighty thousand miles and more.

Where does this violent, hypnotic aural travelogue take you within the Sop Ruak? The seven tracks that make up The Golden Triangle see the band – completed by bassist Jason Stoll, drummer Stuart Bell, guitarist Jodie Cox, synthesist/guitarist Oli Knowles and saxophonist Colin Webster – adventure first to ‘The Confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers,’ full of shimmering orchestration and feather-light ambience. Then come stops in ‘Myawaddy’, named after a small town embroiled in bloodshed on the border of Myanmar and Thailand, and ‘Boten, Route 13’ – sparked by stories of a seemingly endless stretch of road from Laos into China. Before long, listeners are plunged into ‘Hpakant’, one of the album’s most invigorating and singular moments, lyrically inspired by a jade mine in Myanmar, where the spoils of forced labour are exchanged for prostitution and methanphetamine. 

The result is a mesmerising slow-burn of sax, snaking rhythms and sinister spoken word courtesy of the Scottish-born Bruce McClure, who “took the theme and turned it into a sci-fi story of exploitation and vice,” explains the frontman.

It’s a track that, like the rest of Golden Triangle, underlines the evolution Sex Swing have undertaken since forming in 2014. From the raw and primitive sounds of the self-titled debut full-length, followed up by the coruscating Type II in 2020. Sex Swing’s third effort retains those early primitive elements and adds layers of structure and complexity.
Golden Triangle initial formation was that of programmed beats and bedroom recordings shared electronically in the height of the pandemic. Those ideas were then completed during intensive writing sessions at a secluded farm in Oxfordshire. 

Album credits consist of recording by Stanley Gravett at Holy Mountain Studios in Hackney, mixing by Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse, mastering from James Plotkin, and the continued aesthetic collaboration with artist Alex Bunn. Golden Triangle bristles with a rawness familiar to fans of the British sonic punishers, but adds new elements indicative of a group never resting on their laurels or sitting in one place. Why would they, after all? There’s an entire world of mountains and mystery and unholy medicine out there to be explored. The Golden Triangle, it seems, is just the beginning.