Opening on the title-track, “Negative Space” is ambitious and climbs up toward the sky with this instrumental that is subtle at first, but opens up to be a full scale operation of sound. The guitar plucks eighth-notes to bring a foundation in, then immediately after, the drums and percussion begin to splash and explode on the track.
The twisted cover art for Negative Space is off-putting but not at first glance, it takes a moment to realize what is wrong in the photo. Somehow reflective to the production of the record as at the first reaction, Negative Space is spacious and easy to fall into. The eyes immediately match the ears through gentle approaches.
Once the following track, “Same Things” pushes through on the surface, however, the ability to shift gears becomes present. “Same Things” takes Swain to be this isolated factor of mixing between early stages of deeply tuned guitars and bedroom indie sounds. The lyricism is more of a flow of consciousness that appears, describing, “It’s a mess, all we do is obsess with the negative space in our heads. Our hearts won’t get filled, a smile gives us chills. And the happiness: it kills.”
Later tracks like “Dispel” are moments of pure despair from the instrumental alone that doesn’t include much of a guitar or string section until the second half of the track. The droning piano that crumbles behind the vocals is able to elicit this great barrier between the audience and Swain.
Each note struck is almost feeling as if it was sporadic and spur of the moment, playing entirely off the instinct of crushing loneliness. “Dispel” is an interesting track as it is differentiated from every other piece on Negative Space, but somehow acts as an interlude between the madness for Swain. Every misstep is almost present here, every distant boost of sonic ability, all coming to a forefront that transitions effortlessly into “Fistful of Hair.”
Using the same sensations as “Dispel,” the track “Fistful of Hair” is sluggish to start but eventually peels these layers with ethereal vocal undertones. Backing vocals are just hums and slight choir refrains while the primary narration illustrates, “We’re down in the hole, where it’s bruise blue and rosy gold. Swallow me whole, I wanna taste you on the inside.”
Through the 11 tracks and 42-minutes of lucid escapes from sleep, Swain is particularly shining in their final moments where Negative Space makes a stand for performance. Like waves that wash over the audience, Negative Space is both warming and comforting but can disappear into the domain from once it came, leaving separation as a theme for the piece.