The Horse, The Rat And The Swan
Like the soundtrack to a teenage slasher flick, Snowman’s second album, The Horse, The Rat and The Swan, has a sense of undulating unease. There are masked killers peeking around every corner, imbuing even the few moments of shade with combustible tension. Opener, ?Our Mother (She Remembers)?, starts innocently enough. But the sparse snare hits are just a set-up, giving way to eerie keyboards, Cramps-ish guitars and a maniacal vocal (by Joe McKee or Aditya Citawarman, you’re never really quite sure).
There’s little of the surf-rock playfulness of their debut here – and Snowman are all the better for it. The Perth four-piece cast a significantly wide sonic palette, taking in the ethereality of early 4AD and the propulsive tribalism of PiL’s Metal Box.
This is a brave record, but it also reveals vulnerabilities. ?We are machines,? is intoned like a mantra on The Gods of the Upperhouse, while a vocoder makes the hook on ?We Are the Plague? sound like an alien on its death bed: ?I am infected/ I am infected/ I’m just a virus.?
Brooding, challenging, but also prone to moments of beauty, The Horse, The Rat and The Swan is an artistic triumph. But it also nearly cost Snowman their lives. With the band’s existence reportedly teetering on a knife’s edge during the recording process, let’s just hope it’s not their swansong.