Working with a massive range of instruments from all over the world, this North Carolina trio creates a series of involved performances on its debut album that reject the bland center of "worldbeat" for a more esoteric, challenging mean. Guitar can and does easily rub up against dulcimer and oud, melodica and tape manipulation can and do hold equal relevance, and sprightliness can appear as much as haunting melancholia, though generally the latter air is the stronger. Even energetic pieces like "Kehen Yorum Billa" are softly played and performed, the atmosphere gently hushed and all the more intriguing for it. When the three do fire up more openly, as with "Silver Silk," the effect is sweet and refreshing. For all the instrumentation at play, the threesome's work is remarkably uncluttered and clear, and definitely no showboating is apparent. Though the album begins with the beautiful "Wild Geese Descend on Level Sands," a Chinese melody in origin, aside from a Turkish lyric and a version of a Fred McDowell song ("When the Train Comes Along"), everything else is strictly the work of the three, and it is quite good. An excellent example is "The Destination," with an understated tension carried by the slide guitar played by member Grant Tennille, underscored by slight, but very slight, percussion and other instruments. Vocals, when present, are softly but clearly sung, but generally the Swords prefer to let the music do the talking instead. Emphasis in the performances are on quicker playing rather than slower, more drony approaches, but a bit of zone-out creeps in here and there, as in the end notes of "Portals to a Land" or the low swells on the appropriately titled "Dawn Approach." The McDowell cover is appropriately twanged and bluesy, one of the most straightforward things on an intriguingly unpredictable album.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett