Oliver Swain adds new machinery

Canadian folk artist Oliver Swain is exploring some electronic machinery in his new set

Canadian folk musician Oliver Swain is bringing some new machinery with him to Penticton.

The typically-acoustic, award winning and Juno-nominated singer-songwriter is exploring the electronic side of the musical spectrum in his latest creations.

“It’s a constantly evolving project, but over the last year I’ve been incorporating some more elements of electronic effects and a loop station,” Swain said. “It’s been giving me an opportunity to modify the sounds of the acoustic instruments and my voice.”

Confessing he’s always been somewhat of an “acoustic music purist,” playing with a 125-year-old goatskin banjo and string bass, he has achieved his unique sound over the years through different performance techniques.

This year he has taken to integrating the assistance of electronics to broaden the scope of his one-man show. He was inspired by the work of other guitarists he’s worked with, getting interested in how they modify their instruments.

“Which sort of led me into my first experimentation and it was kind of like the door opened. I realized there was this new dimension that was sort of a room of wonders I found myself in,” Swain said.

He said he had to be judicious with the use of electronics because his work often revolves around different performance techniques some ancient and traditional, some newer.

“Just maintaining really the integrity of what you’re able to achieve with that and combining it with some of the more modern opportunities we have now with electronics. Really it’s just been thrilling,” Swain said. “And now I can finally do things like harmonize with myself.”

It can be an interesting experience from the audience’s perspective as well, Swain said, noting his work with the electronic elements of his set also have a performance element similar to what he can accomplish with acoustic instruments.

“Nothing is pre-recorded, everything is done live at the show,” Swain said.

Nominated as Roots Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, diversity has been the hallmark of the year for Swain. In addition to his solo work, Swain acted in a Kaleidoscope Theatre production of The Little Prince, His first professional acting role in years. Swain is also embarking on his second tour of B.C. in under a month. His first time through Penticton this year was of a different variety, exploring Kirtan — devotional mantra chanting from the Hindu tradition.

At performances the audience and performer sing together, and Swain took the experience through B.C. with international yogi Sufey Chen.

“It’s one part guided meditation and one part group singing. It is a very interesting opportunity,” Swain said. “I’ve always loved group singing, I’ve worked with choirs and workshops all over North America, but this is a twist on it with devotional chanting. It’s really just a fascinating experience. It kind of is a marriage of my love of international devotional music as well as just group singing and facilitating group singing together.”

The experience of music is a spiritual practice to Swain, who said there is an incredible feeling attached to making music with groups of people.

“I think there’s no coincidence that choral music and song is a big part of religious and spiritual traditions around the world. There’s a natural affinity and those two things really attracted me to the practice,” Swain said.

After his tour, Swain is getting hard to work on a new album. Some of his new songs will make a first live appearance at his Penticton performance.

Swain comes to Penticton at the Craft Corner Kitchen on April 23. He visits the Silver Creek Community Hall in Salmon Arm on April 22, the Hear in the House Concert with Nils Loewen in Kelowna April 21 and the Pottery Road Studio in Vernon on April 20.

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