In ‘Swim Team’, Congo-American songwriter Christelle Bofale has generated an all-consuming swirl. Rather than journeying from one destination to another, ‘Swim Team’ quite simply circles, its circuitous structures representing steam rising in the distance or the flow of a river changing directions as its water clashes against rocks. Bofale puts this formless, malleable flow down to her Congo origins, where at age four Bofale connected specifically to the joyful energy and groovy, rhythmic patterns imbued in in soukous, a rumba-inspired genre from the Congo. Indeed, her own father was a respected soukous guitarist.
A violent air hangs over ‘Swim Team,’ the remnants of a toxic relationship from Bofale’s freshman studies. The circling structures remind you that the way out of toxic relationship is rarely straightforward, one day you’ll be in the shallow minutes away from your feet hitting land until a violent gust blows you off course and you’re back where you started. Seven-minute centrepiece ‘U Ouchea’ conveys this feeling best, Bofale giving voice to her plight singing “You’re out here/tightroping/should’ve left that to the acrobats.” In this line, Bofale explains how she often put her ex’s feelings ahead of her own, jumping, changing at their every whim.
‘Swim Team’ is tumultuous – just see the line ‘I built a home for you, you tore it up’ on the bluntly named ‘Love Lived Here Once.’ Sometimes though you’ve got to roll down the river and take the hits along the way to arrive at the sea. Christelle Bofale is out here and she’s boundless.