Swans Announce Extensive North American Touring in Support of To be Kind

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Supported by a seemingly endless supply of vitriol nearly as much as by a string of limited live and homemade releases, the ongoing reactivation of Swans will release its latest document, a 2CD called To be Kind which undoubtedly isn’t, on May 13 via frontman Michael Gira‘s Young God RecordsMute for everywhere outside North America. The hugely influential outfit have announced tour dates across various regions of the country as well as in the UK and into Canada that will keep them busy through the summer and into fall as they support the new album.

The new song, “A Little God in My Hands,” can be heard below, following details off the PR wire:

Swans announce new Sept. tour dates in N. Am.

Swans announce details of the first few legs of a year-long, worldwide tour starting May 2014, following the release of the new album To Be Kind on Young God Records (North America) May 13 and on Mute May 12 in the rest of the world.

The US dates begin in Washington, DC May 14. Full details below.

Swans are Michael Gira, Norman Westberg, Christoph Hahn, Phil Puleo, Thor Harris and Christopher Pravdica and these are their first US dates since last July.

‘To Be Kind’ features several special guests: Little Annie, St. Vincent, labelmate Cold Specks and Bill Rieflin. The album was produced by Michael Gira, and recorded by John Congleton at Sonic Ranch, Texas. Further recordings and mixing were accomplished in Dallas, Texas.

Explaining the proposed formats, Gira has said, “It will be available as a triple vinyl album, a double CD, and a 2XCD Deluxe Edition that will include a live DVD. It will also be available digitally.

Swans, led by Michael Gira, formed in 1982 and, after disbanding in 1997, returned with the critically acclaimed albums ‘My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky’ (2010) and 2012′s ‘The Seer’. 2014′s new album ‘To Be Kind’ was in part funded through sales of the live 2 CD set “Not Here/Not Now” available exclusively from the band’s site.

SWANS SPRING US TOUR Jenny Hval supports on May dates
May 14 – Washington DC, Black Cat Mainstage
May 15 – Philadelphia PA, Union Transfer
May 17 – Boston MA, Royale Nightclub
May 18 – New York NY, Bowery Ballroom
May 19 – Brooklyn NY, Music Hall of Williamsburg

UK TOUR
May 22 – Manchester UK, Academy 2
May 23 – Newcastle UK, Hoults Yard
May 24 – Glasgow UK, The Arches
May 25 – Aberdeen UK, The Lemon Tree
May 27 – London UK, Brixton Electric
May 28 – Bristol UK, Trinity Community Arts
May 29 – Reading UK, Sub89
May 31 – Birmingham UK, Supersonic Festival – Custard Factory
June 1 – Leeds UK, Cockpit
June 2 – Brighton UK, Concorde 2
Support comes from Jenny Hval on all the May dates.

SWANS SUMMER US TOUR – Xiu Xiu support on June/July dates
June 17 – Quebec QC Le Cercle
June 18 – Montreal Qc Theatre National
June 20 – Toronto ON Yonge-Dundas Square Stage- MNW Festival
June 21 – Detroit MI St Andrews Hall
June 22 – Chicago IL Lincoln Hall
June 24 – St Louis MO The Ready Room
June 26 – Dallas TX Trees
June 27 – Austin TX Mohawk Austin
June 28 – Houston TX Fitzgerald’s Upstairs
June 30 – Nashville TN Exit / In
July 1 – Charlotte NC Neighborhood Theatre
July 2 – Louisville KY The New Vintage
July 3 – Pittsburgh PA Rex Theater
July 5 – Buffalo NY Tralf Music Hall
July 6 – New Haven CT Toad’s Place
Tue 9/2 Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater
Thu 9/4 Seattle, WA – Showbox
Fri 9/5 Vancouver, BC- the Venue
Sat 9/6 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
Mon 9/8 San Francisco-, CA Independent-Bluebird Theater
Thu 9/11 Hollywood CA- The Roxy Theatre

younggodrecords.com
www.facebook.com/SwansOfficial
https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialSwans
mute.com
www.facebook.com/muterecords

Swans, “A Little God in My Hands” from To be Kind (2014)

Tags: , , , , ,

Readers Poll Results: The Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy New Year to everyone around the world. It’s January 1, 2013, and to celebrate the New Year the best way I know how, I got right to work on tabulating the results of the 2012 Readers Poll. I’ve been tracking the results as they’ve come in over the course of December, and as you can see in the list below, it was a tight race for the top spot right up to the end.

Before we run down the finished list, I want to extend gratitude to each and every one of the 296 people who contributed their top 12 so this list could be put together. It’s an amazing response and I was super stoked that so many of you were able to take part. Thank you for that. Right from the first day the form went up, I knew this was going to be awesome, and it wound up exceeding my every expectation. It was a great sendoff to the year. Much appreciated.

Here are the results of the Top 20 of 2012 Readers Poll:

1. Om, Advaitic Songs – 108 votes

2. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis – 106

3. Graveyard, Lights Out – 86

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay – 65

5. Ufomammut, Oro – 63

5. Witchcraft, Legend – 63

6. Colour Haze, She Said – 56

6. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65 – 56

7. Kadavar, Kadavar – 49

7. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction – 49

8. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned – 46

9. Baroness, Yellow and Green – 39

10. Conan, Monnos – 38

11. Swans, The Seer – 35

12. Astra, The Black Chord – 31

13. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers – 31

13. The Sword, Apocryphon – 31

14. Royal Thunder, CVI – 26

14. Wo Fat, The Black Code – 26

15. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time – 25

16. Torche, Harmonicraft – 23

17. Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity – 22

18. Enslaved, Riitiir – 19

19. Goat, World Music – 18

19. Melvins Lite, Freak Puke – 18

19. Soundgarden, King Animal – 18

20. Amenra, Mass V – 17

20. Samothrace, Reverence to Stone – 17

16 Votes

Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild
Rush, Clockwork Angels
Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar
Troubled Horse, Step Inside

15 Votes

Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind – 15
Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags – 15
My Sleeping Karma, Soma – 15

Pretty wild to have Om and High on Fire so close, and they were tied for a long, long time, but Om retained an early lead and managed to pull it out in the end. As you can see, there were a number of releases that tied with others for their position. Seemed only fair to me to include all of them, and I also threw in those with 16 and 15 votes as well, just because it was close. In total, there were an astounding 1,200+ albums entered into consideration.

Once again, thanks to everyone for making this Readers Poll happen and for taking the time to be a part of it. Already looking forward to some fantastic things to come in 2013, so please stay tuned and keep your lists handy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Before ’13 — Albums Not to Miss Before the End of 2012

Posted in Where to Start on July 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.

In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.

And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.

Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:

1. Colour Haze, She Said (Sept./Oct.)


I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Said is on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.

2. EnslavedRIITIIR (Sept. 28)

The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIR is the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.

3. Mos Generator, Nomads (Oct. 23)

Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which Ripple Music unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone AxeHeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.

4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter (Sept.)

No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Light route and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.

5. WitchcraftLegend (Sept. 21)

I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.

6. Wo FatThe Black Code (Nov.)

After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.

7. Blood of the SunBurning on the Wings of Desire (Late 2012)

As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.

8. SwansThe Seer (Aug. 28)

This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seer is loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.

9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (Sept. 4)

Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.

10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)

Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of God in its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri (review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.

11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Aug. 28)

Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.

12. Hooded MenaceEffigies of Evil (Sept. 11)

You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.

13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)

Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.

Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.

Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roadburn 2012: Killing Joke, Michael Gira and Celestial Season Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

These updates are quickly becoming the highlights of my week. Although I can’t imagine the room won’t be so packed as to allow one to breathe and exist at the same time, seeing Michael Gira perform a solo acoustic set might just be worth the lack of oxygen. Toss in Killing Joke and Dutch doom innovators Celestial Season and the latest Roadburn news just made my afternoon. Dig it:

Voivod and Roadburn are equally thrilled to announce that seminal post-punk pioneers Killing Joke will perform at Roadburn 2012 on Thursday, April 12th as part of the newly expanded Au-delà du Réel event.

Killing Joke was at the top of Voivod‘s wish list as soon as they accepted the curator invitation.

Unfortunately, Jaz Coleman (vocals, keyboards and arrangements), Geordie Walker (guitar), Youth (bass) and Paul Ferguson (drums) could not make it to Tilburg on Friday, April 13th due to prior commitments. However, in the spirit of Roadburn and true to the Outer Limits theme, it was quickly decided to expand Au-delà du Réel and turn Voivod‘s dream of sharing a stage with Killing Joke into reality.

Please note that Voivod‘s second show originally scheduled for Saturday, April 14th has been moved to Thursday, April 12th as part of the specially extended Au-delà du Réel. The main stage lineup for Thursday, April 12th (in alphabetical, not official running order): Agalloch, d.USK/diSEMBOWELMENT, Killing Joke, OM, Ulver and Voivod.

While Swans’ intensely heavy headliner performance at this year’s Roadburn is still resonating in our collective minds, we’re elated to announce the return of Michael Gira for an acoustic solo performance on Thursday, April 14th at the Midi Theatre in Tilburg, Holland.

In related news: Reunited Dutch doomsters Celestial Season will perform their influential, groundbreaking second album, Solar Lovers in its entirety for the first time ever at Roadburn Festival 2012 on Saturday, April 14th, Midi Theatre in Tilburg, Holland.

Barn Owl, Jucifer, Urfaust, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Purson, Hammers of Misfortune, Orchid, Sigiriya, Lord Vicar and End of Level Boss have also been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2012.

Tickets for Roadburn 2012 will go on sale Saturday, November 26th, 10:00 Central European Time. There will be a 2 ticket limit (per order) for 3-day and 4-day passes and Afterburner tickets –the same goes for the Campsite Tickets. More info here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Swans Interview with Michael Gira: The Apostate, the Gospel Sway and the Rope to the Sky

Posted in Features on September 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Usually, in interviews, there’s a brief bit of smalltalk at the beginning and the end. “Thanks for taking the call,” “Appreciate the time,” and that sort of thing. A question I get asked a lot is, “Hey, are you coming out to X show?” It’s something people ask mostly to be polite.

At the end of our interview, when Swans guitarist/vocalist Michael Gira asked me if I’d be on hand for either the I’ll be Your Mirror fest in Asbury Park that his band is playing or the Brooklyn show preceding, I said I’d like to hit up Brooklyn (to which David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand has been added for an acoustic set), but that if I did, I’d have to deal with being surrounded by Williamsburg hipsters.

Gira‘s response — without a second of delay or hesitation of any kind — was, “bring a flamethrower.”

Shit you not.

It’s that kind of unbending will for confrontation that’s helped Gira and Swans cast a hugely influential net on underground music, be it Neurosis and the post-metal born in their wake or Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the avant-garde style experimentation they in turn have fostered. Swans are a root band, setting a lineage of distinct and aggressive crescendos. Their music feels like it’s crashing down on you as you listen.

Despite the long break between the studio albums Soundtracks for the Blind (1996) and My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (2010) and Gira‘s shift in direction that took place with the dark acoustic-led Americana of Angels of Light (whose seven-album discography is a beast unto itself), that oppressive feeling has remained consistent. The personnel may have changed — and Gira‘s drive for challenge has led to a sound that’s moving forward rather than trying to harken back to something it would inevitably fail to capture — but new Swans is still Swans.

My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky was one of 2010′s densest and most crushing releases, and in the interview below Gira discusses what led him to revive the band, the development of even newer material — some of which has already been recorded — a forthcoming live album, the practicalities involved in putting out music on his own label, Young God Records, the relationship between Swans and Angels of Light and much more.

Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Read more »

Tags: , ,

Roadburn 2011 Adventure Pt. 8: My Mind’s Been Released

Posted in Features on April 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

3:01AM — Saturday Night/Sunday Morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I wound up giving up on seeing Shrinebuilder and Ufomammut tonight in favor of Stone Axe and Swans. I don’t know if it was the right decision, and quite frankly, fuck it, I’m through making the right decisions. I’m too tired and I’m too fuck-offy to care what I should be seeing. I made tonight at Roadburn what I wanted it to be, and you can fuck right off if you think I should have been somewhere other than I was.

Pushed my way through to Ramesses in the Green Room when I got back to 013, and no regrets for that, although the space was packed. They were ballsy, they were heavy, they killed, blah blah blah. It was good, and the more I stood there the more I wanted to hear their upcoming album, the promo for which is on my desktop at the office, so I guess mission accomplished. I’m starting to run out of euphemisms for “I liked it.” So fuck it. I liked Ramesses. They were good.

While making my way through the merch area for the umpteenth time this weekend, I ran into the dudes from Stubb, who were on tour with Stone Axe until tonight. I kind of offered to put out their record if they couldn’t find a better deal, so that was something, but more importantly, after shooting the shit for a while, I did the science and decided to see Stone Axe instead of Shrinebuilder. The math was simple and went like this: I’ve seen Shrinebuilder; I haven’t seen Stone Axe. Equation over.

Stone Axe, for what it’s worth, laid rocking waste to the Bat Cave. Theirs was the first set all weekend I’d seen in there, and if it’s the only one — which, since nothing for the Afterburner is booked in there, I guess it will be — it was the right choice. They rocked. And that’s it. I felt like I knew them from listening to the records, but live, Stone Axe is a different beast entirely. Tony Reed killed it on guitar and Dru Brinkerhoff was drunk enough to swipe my beer from the front of the stage before their set even started. It was a rock and roll party, and for a couple minutes, I managed to let go of what a miserable bastard I am, how fucking stressed out I’ve been about work, about school, about this site, all that shit.

It was brief, but for just a bit of Stone Axe, I genuinely didn’t care anymore about any of it. I pulled my earplugs out and let go, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve done that since Neurosis played here in 2009. It didn’t matter that when I get back to Jersey I have a ton of shit to catch up on, or that I spent most of the day wanting to blow my brains out all over the gorgeous Tilburg sidewalk, or that hits are down this month and everyone thinks I give a shit one way or the other what gets posted on the forum when I don’t, or what kind of asshole dwells on this crap anyway when he’s supposed to be having the time of his life: I just rocked out and that was it. I had to travel over 3,600 miles to make that happen.

Like I said, the respite was short-lived, and I was soon back to my grumpy fuck-all. I walked out of Stone Axe partied out, watched them close through the door and soon and set up shop in the main stage photo pit (fucking where else?) for Swans, who proved unphotogenic and apocalyptic in equal measure. I stayed until they did “Jim” from last year’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky and then split to come back to the Mercure and call it a night and revel in the foulness of mood for a bit. Oh, if only Evoken were playing now.

One more day to go. It’ll be 4AM at least by the time I finish uploading the photos for this post, so I’ll wake up when I wake up and head over to 013, probably same as today. I’m tired, I miss The Patient Mrs. and my tolerance for weirdos is at its end, but on my way out of the venue, I ran into Winter‘s drummer and he seemed like a cool cat, and I got Johan Lundquist, Robert Lowe and Leif Edling to sign my Roadburn flyer, and I told David D’Andrea I wanted to interview him for this site, so I don’t at all mark the night a loss. I also got one of the last discs of whatever it was White Hills was selling, so tongue out to anyone else who wanted it.

A photographer took my picture yesterday for the Dutch 3voor12 site, which in addition to covering the fest is doing a special pictorial on beards. I had to give my name (JJ Koczan), where I was from (New Jersey) and how long I’ve been growing my beard (a year-plus), and though she told me it would be online today, I can’t find it. Probably for the best. The first part of the series is here if you want to check it out. The rest I don’t know. Maybe I’ll show up there sooner or later and you can find out first-hand why I make it a policy never to put pictures of myself on this site.

Afterburner tomorrow. I want to see Sungrazer so bad I can taste it.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , ,

Long Day Gone Swans

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 27th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

…Because when you’re still at the office at 8PM, it’s time for some apocalyptic shit.

Screw it, I’m leaving.

Tags: , ,

Swans, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky: It’s Like “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” but Heavier

Posted in Reviews on September 22nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

With the first new Swans album in 14 years, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (Young God), vocalist/guitarist/producer/songwriter Michael Gira is showing how a reunion is properly handled. You don’t just go out there and trot out the greatest hits. You don’t make it a blatant cash-grab. You create something. You reenter a headspace, make a new record, and give your fans a new context for understanding how you’ve grown and progressed since the last go around. Most importantly, you don’t try to remake what you’ve already done. Gira, who’s spent his post-Swans years developing the apocalyptic-folk strains of Angels of Light, reignites Swans with the vigor of a new band already established in its approach, vehement in its creativity and positively crushing in its sonics.

Joining him in the endeavor are former Swans guitarists Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn, as well as a host of personalities from various Swans and Angels of Light tours and albums, including drummer/percussionists Phil Puleo and Thor Harris and bassist Chris Pravdica. Conspicuously absent is Jarboe. Gira’s songwriting is center, as ever, and several of the My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky cuts could be heard on the precursor limited acoustic record I am Not Insane (also Young God), which was released in order to finance the recording of this new album. Here, though, the tracks are fleshed out with sundry noises and percussive twists and very much “plugged in,” opener “No Words/No Thoughts” tackling a godless universe with all the crushing weight that implication has for mortality. At over nine minutes, the song undulates rhythmically, reeling back and unleashing a growing barrage of new elements one after another until cutting to Gira’s vocals so the effect can be even greater when the music starts again.

So this new incarnation of Swans isn’t afraid to be heavy, but there’s more to their sound than slow builds and crashes. Anyone wondering why Swans had such an influence over the generation of acts that followed need look no further than tracks like “Reeling the Liars In” or the even-more sinister “Jim,” which evoke dark atmospheres that’s largely to Gira’s desolate-sounding vocals. In “Jim” especially, Gira’s vocal cadence shows what players like Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly of Neurosis were able to glean from Swans’ original run and put in the context of their own work. One could say the same for “My Birth,” on which every snare hit feels like a gut-punch in an insistent rhythm the likes of which Godflesh based most of its tenure on. Despite a number of jumps in aesthetic, from “Reeling the Liars In,” which but for the personnel involved probably could have been an Angels of Light song and no one would have batted an eye, to “Jim,” to “My Birth,” and so on, Gira is what ties the album together.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,