Through the six tracks of George’s Diner, Craig Swan tells the story of George, a heartbroken person whose dreams of running a business are destroyed. Using the idea of a diner to perfectly capture the erosion of local communities through so-called progress, Swan takes listeners on a journey of isolation, loss, depression and hope. While touching on the erosion of communities, he also explores mental health issues within this context.
Drawing on inspiration from Nick Cave to Joni Mitchell, Swan combines electronic tones with alterative folk for an engaging storytelling experience. The EP is a Bandcamp exclusive with all the proceeds going to The Jordan Legacy. This foundation was started by the father of Swan’s friend who they lost to suicide.
The EP opens with the lead track ‘Return to the Ground’ which is almost a tribute to nihilism. The gentle and bright awakening that starts the track is like the sun cresting over the horizon on a silent morning. Swan’s vocals are haunting as they gently reach out chilled fingers and sweep across exposed skin. There is an interesting contrast in the track as the music and vocals bring this tender light to your ears while the lyrics tell a very different story. Steeped in sadness and the sombre idea that ultimately we all end up in the same place, the lyrics seem to hit harder through the tender delivery. The use of a vocal sample is an interesting inclusion but brings its own poignancy to the song.
‘I Am Not Always On Cloud 87’ is the first of three mini sound collages that break up the EP. These tracks are between the three proper tracks of the EP and bring their own interlude to proceedings. This track opens with a goodbye before sweeping into a crash and scratch of sound. There is an encompassing feeling to the movement of the track that overtakes your senses. The vocals croak against the soundscape like an announcement in an old train station.
The lapping of waves and warbling ambient tones open ‘Lake Semerwater’. There is a traditional folk ballad feeling to this track as the vocals rise from the mists of the ambient tones. Through the story of the lyrics, you are urged to give into nature. The haunting vocals have you shivering with their ethereal movement. There are swirling clouds of sounds that twirl behind the vocals adding texture and emphasis to the track. As you are lead into the peace and haunting of nature, the single also brings the idea that life and death are mirrored by movement and its absence.
‘Wake Up, George’ is the second sound collage that slowly whispers into your ears. There is a really ominous and almost nightmarish feeling to the track that gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. As the tension mounts in your shoulders and you feel like there is someone just behind you, the track gains a ghostly feeling that calls you into the ether.
Inspired by the novel by JG Ballard of the same name, ‘Unlimited Dream Company’ is a reimagining of the idea of living a better life far away from the stresses of modern life. There is a tiered feeling to this track as the most obvious meaning of the lyrics is the idea that people are content in a place beyond the realm of the living. However, this is tempered by a feeling of escapism that gets you away from the world as you know it and back to something more grounding and peaceful. This is a really intriguing single that listeners are able to take in the way they want while drifting on the misty movements.
The EP ends with the last of the mini sound collages ‘Ascending George’. This last experimental piece is much lighter and brighter than the other two with the feeling of clouds parting to let the sun shine through. The whispered welcomes can easily put a smile on your face while the melodic tones are golden in their shining.
Craig Swan takes listeners on an interesting journey as he dives into nihilism, escapism, depression and hope in George’s Diner. With a combination of mini sound collages and proper tracks, the EP is a rather intense listening experience that is bound to touch each listener in a different way. Using ethereal vocals and haunting melodics, Swan keeps you hooked from start to finish.