Ember Swift recently returned from a three-month stay in Beijing, where she pursued two of her favorite things — music and Chinese culture. It was a much-needed break from a hectic touring schedule that's kept the Canadian singer-songwriter busy since 1997. In that time, she formed her own record label, released nine albums, and managed her career without any outside help.
Swift is back on the road, accompanied by a trio of musicians who share her idealism. She describes her music as the "bilingual love child of Paul Simon and Laurie Anderson who is being raised by Joan Jett." That's a little confusing, but it's reflective of her wide range of influences, which are especially evident onstage, where she's a jazzy, soulful songstress one moment — in songs like "Affluence Disease" and "Reinforced Concrete" — and a folksy rock star the next. (Check out "Pek," which combines tribal drumming, furious fiddling, and Swift's own primal wail, laid atop percussive guitar-strumming.) It'll be interesting to see how the exotic elements she picked up in China figure into her already diverse tablet of sounds when she comes to town this week.