Lost In, modern jazz ensemble SWART.’s 2018 debut album, is a collection of stories, both musical and personal. It showcases a wide sonic range, moving through big band-style jazz jams, introspective explorations, and wild, nearly pure-sound improvisations.
All the pieces on the album, except for “Alone in Kyoto,” are written by composer and saxophonist Celia Swart, who also plays alto and soprano saxophone on the record. Her main inspiration for the collection stems from her travels; the music she writes here, for the most part, chronicles her earliest experiences leaving The Netherlands to explore new countries. The album takes us on a journey to New York City, Hong Kong, and a remote forest, depicting the anxieties of air travel and climate change, the exhilaration of cities that never sleep.
The record’s rapid sonic shifts are particularly engaging throughout. Exalting big band-reminiscent jazz suddenly becomes placid ambient noise at the beginning of “Lost In, Pt. 1.” “Delayed, Cancelled” eventually breaks this iciness, telling the musical story of Swart’s first trip to the United States with explosive unison, portraying Swart’s flight anxiety, the lack of friendliness at the airport, and, ultimately, the need to tap into your independence. It’s a song that emulates despair, but also displays a strong sense of power. Swart’s saxophone confidently billows deep pitches, the unison melody overpowers the undercurrent of anxiety.
“Lost In, Pt. 2” sweeps back into the thinner landscape of “Lost In, Pt. 1,” featuring a delicate saxophone interlude, while “NYC” bursts with Rik Mol’s intricate muted trumpet solos, exploring the dichotomy of syncopated, truncated melody and big-band unison to illustrate the endless energy Swart feels in New York. “Alone in Kyoto” is an upbeat cover of French electronic duo AIR, inspired by Swart’s love of the film Lost in Translation and the language barriers she faced in Hong Kong.
The final pair of pieces on the album, “Deep in the Forest” and “Angry Woods,” switch the narrative from Swart’s personal story to the story of climate change. Here, she finds herself imagining what the environment would say to us if it could speak, illuminating its disappointment and rage with eery dissonance and angsty musical eruptions. “Deep in the Forest” takes a decidedly new musical turn, with suspended uncertainty, yearning strings, and palpable dissonance, while “Angry Woods” is a fast-paced sonic depiction of disillusionment, using deep pitches, frenetic solos, and syncopation to create a sense of urgency.
With the final moments of “Angry Woods,” we’re sent off in a fit of emotion. Even in its most searching moments, the undercurrent of excitement runs through every instant of Lost In. It’s a collection of pieces that ebb and flow across emotions, using storytelling to explore a massive range of sonic landscapes, finding its strength in constantly changing musical ideas.
Lost In is available for streaming and purchase through Distrokid.