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The Seer

Swans, The Seer,  3xLP or 2xCD, Young God Records, 2012 — Swans, throughout their thirty year history, have always been good enough not to make me wish I was listening to something else, nor remind even me that something else exists.  If when playing The Seer, with its long boiling rises and reductions, a sniff of Aidan Baker or Burning Star Core comes into the room, it is not because Swans are catching up with the times, it is because the times are finally catching up with Swans. Michael Gira describes his latest work as “the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined.” And while it is easy to agree with this statement in terms of aesthetic and … [Read more...]

Reprise

Swans, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, March 2, 2011 – In the 1980’s and 90’s, Swans as a live experience was nothing less than a baptism by sound – cleansing, cathartic, obliterative – a relentless and perpetual immolation by pure noise and power. It was quite satisfying for those of us who sought to both transcend and fully inhabit this material world and corporeal self through a violent surrender to a literally deafening present. It sounds over the top and that was exactly the point. The music was lyrically and sonically potent, but its power was harnessed and channeled by M. Gira, whose very name suggested  a severing of identity and its iconic reformation. I don’t know if I took myself as seriously as Michael Gira … [Read more...]

Beatific Annihilation_Part 2

Swans, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, Young God Records, 2010 – My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, the title of Swans’ 2010 record, refers to Michael Gira dying and following his parents up to heaven on a rope of smoke, and obliquely to the relief from asthma he experienced after giving up smoking. It is very much a journey into the unknown, as any endeavor would venture after a thirteen year hiatus. The new six-piece version of Swans includes members from different incarnations of the band—Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn on guitar, Phil Puleo on drums, and Chris Pravdica on bass, as well as the percussionist Thor Harris. (Jarboe’s absence, though significant, is not conspicuous. She and Gira have not … [Read more...]

Beatific Annihilation_Part 1

Swans, Early Ruminations, 1981-1997 – One evening in 1981, the members of a New York City band called Circus Mort agreed to call it quits. Two of them, Jonathan Kane and Michael Gira, left the rehearsal space to get beer and cigarettes, and by the end of the night they had begun a new band called Swans, under Gira’s direction. Kane stayed with Swans less than two years and many other members have come and gone; only Gira has remained constant and for thirty years Swans has been his personal pursuit of the same untailored nihilism pursued by Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Strauss, and Yeats. Buttressed by No Wave rebar, Swans rebuilt the psychedelic castle with open-tuned guitar sound sheets and sonic cement. Yet at heart it was always pure … [Read more...]