If you sense an emotional backstory while listening to Swim, you’re mistaken; turns out there are several. The album’s press notes put the music in context, noting that it was influenced by “indelibly profound life events—the passing away of two dear friends, a serious injury, two weddings and the birth of a child, events at tragic and uplifting extremes.”
Not surprisingly, Swim, produced by Nate Query of the Decemberists, is jarringly dissonant at times, but it’s also poignant, soulful and reassuring. “Everything Is Going to Be Okay,” the standout track, attests to that, thanks in part to an arrangement that accommodates a string trio. The Portland-based quintet has developed its own brand of fitful propulsion over the years, which helps distinguish “Cass Corridor” and other tracks while underscoring the often full-throated pairing of saxophonists-composers Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham. Several guests, including baritone saxophonist Steve Berlin, contribute to the album’s layered textures, shifting moods and score-like melodic bent.