Now, for the first time ever – thanks to a 2023 remix from Drew Vandenberg (Shadow on Everything, Stray) and a remaster from Carl Saff – Bambara live-set favorites such as the brooding “An Ill Son,” the flawlessly dynamic “Black,” and the pop-snarled “All the Ugly Things” can be listened to at a level of audio fidelity on par with the band’s later recordings. For fans of Bambara’s visceral and pummeling performances, which led to extensive touring opportunities along rising star contemporaries such as Gilla Band, Algiers, and IDLES before earning the band their own headlining slot on multiple international tours, Swarm will serve as a sort of missing link.
Upon Swarm's 2016 release (originally on the great Arrowhawk Records), Brooklyn-based Bambara had been honing their noise-rock brutalism since forming in Athens, Georgia in 2009. On Swarm, their second full-length, the band began to pull their approach into sharp focus, and the result was a foundational triumph.
After the pure noise experimentation of their 2013 debut Dreamviolence, here the band began to develop many of their later trademarks. Marrying the maniacal ravings of The Birthday Party and the brutality of early Swans with the tangled roots-punk of The Gun Club, the spotlight started to fall on vocalist/guitarist Reid Bateh’s lyrics as well as the “Spaghetti Western” atmospherics that would come to the fore to such effect on later releases such as Shadow On Everything and Stray.
Tiny Mix Tapes praised Dreamviolence, the band’s first LP, by saying that “complete, utter anguish has never sounded this good.” Swarm made it sound even better. With these 12 songs, Bambara proved that sometimes the only way to confront a fucked-up world is to sink to its level. As Henry Rollins succinctly summed it up at the time, this is a “REALLY cool record.”