Album: SARASWA – Yana (No label 2007)


Saraswa is the recording name of 25 year old English ex-pat Matthew Smawfield, currently resident in Ankara, Turkey. Due to the nature of his parents’ work, Smawfield spent his formative years in countries as far-flung as India, Indonesia, Fiji and Malawi. There is a definite hint of the influence of those places in his music, but Yana is a long way from an exercise in ‘ethnic tourism’.

The name Saraswa comes from the Hindu Goddess of creativity and music, Saraswati, and means “one who flows”. It’s a fairly apt moniker, because there is a kind of fluidity to this music, with piano glissandi weaving in and out of some quite beautiful, vaguely oriental backdrops. Some of the pieces are redolent of Brian Eno’s short ambient works as featured on Music For Films and Another Green World, but occasionally a track, such as “Japon”, will build into a controlled crescendo of fuzzed guitar.

Yana is a completely instrumental affair, largely dominated by the piano, although some tracks have other instruments pushed to the fore. Unlike many records of its ilk, the keyboard is used for more than just laying down glacially paced chord sequences. There are some quite complex looped melody lines. The pace varies from gentle ambience to a sprightly skittishness. Few of the pieces last longer than four minutes, and none outstay their welcome. For me, the pick of the tracks include the aforementioned “Japon”, the fragile Satie-esque tones of “Arkos”, and “The Boat” – an epic closer which starts with a dancing piano sequence, builds to a glitchy, fuzztoned central passage before elegantly recovering its composure and making a dignified, pretty exit.

There are no current plans for Yana to be given a full physical release, but it should be available shortly via iTunes, Napster and the usual suspects as an official download, complete with artwork. I highly recommend it.

1 Yana
2 Trees
3 Roz
4 Tube
5 Arkos
6 Kramer
7 Tiger
8 Estrilia 7.
9 Merging
10 Symbiosis
11 Japon
12 The Boat



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