“The Envelope, Please“
SWIFTY LAZARUS' debut full-length CD, THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE,, is a groundbreaking fusion of spoken word, musique actuelle, techno and hip hop beats, Jazz, and wonky samples from radio and film. The 65.55 minute song-cycle (two years in the making) is almost a possible world soundtrack for a feature Orson Welles never made. The group was inspired by Welles' Mercury Theatre innovations in sound and performance, as well as Golden Age radio's plays and war broadcasts. Other influences include Hitchcock's fascination with fetishism, anxiety and murder (not to mention Bernard Hermann's haunting insistent strings), and avant-garde pop and alternative musics, from McLure to McLaren. Equally significant for both Walsh, composer, and Swift, poet (who both perform on the CD) was the example of Glenn Gould, as master craftsman of edited and arranged radio docudramas, whose contrapuntal voices opened the way for seeing spoken word as a primarily recorded art form separate from both page and stage, existing in the medium of disembodied broadcasts, and yet part of the continuum from Churchill's speeches to Fortner Anderson's disturbing, complex monologues. A critic in Budapest has called SWIFTY LAZARUS "media DJs" for how they sample and play with current events and recontextualize ideology and politics in the light of conspiracy (and post-modern) theory. This is poetics as performance, play, paranoia and protest. The rich, disturbing textures and symphonic structure of the CD suggest Wagner as filtered through Loony Tunes, by way of WW2 propaganda.
"The Envelope Please" - the CD created by poet Todd Swift and musician Tom Walsh is an astonishing experience. The listener is taken to the edge and then pitched right over into free fall through a vortex of ideas and rhythm and sound. Swift's poems present a witty, penetrating and compelling vision of the world we live in: a world of CNN, cybernetics and ever present shadows of history. There are lines along the way that deserve a place in the dictionary of quotations. Walsh's soundscapes draw one ever further in to this world, giving the work alternately a relentless energy and a haunting intensity. The pictures evoked by The Envelope Please stay with the listener long after the CD has been returned to its case: a plane crash site in the tropics; a forlorn Napoleonic battlefield; a post- apocalyptic urban wilderness. This is a work to explore and treasure; above all, it makes you think."
Professor Nicholas J. Cull.
Director, Centre for American Studies, University of Leicester