You may not realise it but there is a gap in your music collection that is crying out for a four track concept EP about mountaineering and giant pandas. And fortuitously Free Swim is on hand to fill it.
Free Swim is “the imaginary cinematic play of Paul Coltofeanu”. His singular one-man project tells tall tales with utter conviction; the first Free Swim EP “Two Hands is OK” was based on the premise 'a man is so busy he decides to have two extra hands grafted onto his chest'. The new EP “Yolanda The Panda” takes us from a cage at San Diego Zoo to sailing across oceans, from escaping incarceration by the Chinese government to tackling the ascent of Everest in a fleet-of-foot 14 minutes. These sundry four songs reminded me at various points of a neat stitching together of English eccentrics and Peel favourites: Martin Newell, Felt, I Ludicrous, Bearsuit.
‘I Want to be a Mountaineer!’ introduces us to our heroine (“I want to do something spectacular, that has a high-risk of death”) with the headlong rush of a pop-punk Arcade Fire driven by machine-gun piano and fizzying guitars. In ‘Harmlessly English’ the rippling guitar chords, pattering drums and glockenspiel recalls the sixties psychedelic whimsy of “SF Sorrow” as Yolanda and her feathered companion voyage across the seas and meet Michael and his “expensive navigation tools”. ‘Swooping Swoopingly Like a Swooping Swooper’ is a gloriously bonkers spoken word gallop powered by driving, chunky guitar riffs and narrated by Quirrence (“yes it’s me again - if you downloaded the first Free Swim EP you might recognise me”) who is studying for a PhD in Cartography. The EP concludes with the soothing waltz-like homecoming of ‘Scoring Bamboo Shoots’ (“like they’re pills”). For all its pace, sudden twists and peculiarity, the EP never forgets to pack great tunes for this surreal odyssey.
This is the kind of oddball, arty indie record that in the mid Eighties would find its unlikely way into the upper reaches of the Festive Fifty. Now in 2011 of course it is released free via Bandcamp. With a price-tag attached this would get a strong recommendation from me. Given “Yolanda the Panda” is free...well what are you waiting for you?