Salt Lake City’s Sympathy Pain is an unusual animal. Their collective backgrounds come from hardcore, drone, and experimental pop. They began as Skyler Hitchcox’s gloomy drone project which was later joined by Casey Hansen (of Cult Leader) to explore and expand the sullen space that the project initially carved out.
Sympathy Pain’s forthcoming album, Swan Dive, is the product of years of excavating that space into a cavern, yielding their self-described “emo)))” (a nod to the preeminent doom/drone band Sunn) while still holding onto the submerged soundscapes that began as the core of the project. The album is expansive—a winding ride that travels from minimalism, to claustrophobic ambient, to triumphant passages that all underscore its forlorn undercurrent.
Swan Dive was written and recorded in the depths of the pandemic (and everything else), but it will finally see the light of day January 12, 2024, courtesy of The Ghost is Clear Records. Tracked with Wes Johnson at Archive Recordings in SLC, UT and mixed/mastered by longtime friend and co-conspirator Ben Young, the album features a haunting guest spot by Madeline Johnston of Midwife on “Heaven + Hell” to close out the album.
“Falling Through”—featured above—displays some of the aforementioned interplay of emo))) and the ethereal. It is built around a glacial polyrhythm, overlaid with otherworldly swells, and a netherworldly vocal loop that conjures the image of Sisyphus struggling to push that stupid goddamn boulder up the mountain.
The video for “Falling Through” was put together by John-Ross Boyce, offering this commentary:
“Some ideas come pre-loaded with their own meaning, without the need for explicit dissertation. The image of the car crash bears a dreadful sense of immediacy that just isn’t present in the usual tropes associated with gloomy post-emo music. The trees will be barren of their leaves, like clockwork, every winter. But a crash can happen to you any time, any place. The music of Sympathy Pain, I think, is like that ever-looming crash.
“We decided to center this video around crash test dummies rather than crashes. We hoped it would give the video a human element without resorting to the exploitative gore of a ‘red asphalt’ film. Dummies being carefully crafted in the lab. Dummies sitting serenely in warehouse storage rooms. Dummies floating in sublime slow motion amidst crumpling metal and flying shards of glass. A loose structure appeared underneath all the debris and smoke.
“When I delivered it to them, I joked that I made them a fucked-up retelling of the Pinocchio story—one where crash test dummies, by design, only become our surrogates when they are at their most mangled. They are made human through intense suffering.”
In preparation for re-launching the project through the release of Swan Dive, Sympathy Pain have recently added fellow abstract and explorative artists Chaz Prymek (of Lake Mary and Fuubutsushi) and Nora Price. They will be playing shows the weekend of and in support of the release in Salt Lake, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles with Rile. Follow them on Instagram for more details and other news. You can preorder Swan Dive here.
Photo courtesy of Sympathy Pain