The Sway Machinery promises that its 3rd LP, “Purity and Danger,” is its “most chiseled enunciation of its foundational concept” yet — and it delivers on this promise. In a return to Afro-pop infused cantorial traditionals and modern blues myth-making, The Sway Machinery comfortably resettles into its epic vision, though this time with even more variance in vocals, guitar styles, and layered and progressive sound structures.
It’s been nearly five years since Sway’s second album release, “The House of Friendly Ghosts,” an ambitious collaboration with Khaira Arby, of Malian fame. With Arby, Sway sought out the consonance and even fusion possible between traditional cantorial music and Malian beats and chanting. Yet, while this global endeavor across nations and religions underscored a shared contemplative vision via the common language of Delta blues, this second album still felt like a departure from Sway’s original vision, even as it excavated its own historical roots.
With “Purity and Danger,” Sway turns from referencing its African influence to self-referencing the cantorial roots established on its 2008 debut album, “Hidden Melodies Revealed.” Once again, animated and deconstructed renditions of traditional hazanut are backed by a complex synthesis of percussion, brass and twang. A tapestry of Western forms inter-play, making it all new again, though this time in a consistently upbeat key — one that sometimes references popular blues and contemporary rock.