Swans - Tour Preview
Earlier this year, in the spring of 2016, New York based experimental post-rock band Swans reached new experimental heights with their latest album The Glowing Man. Frontman Michael Gira bewitched us with his omnipotent roar and haunting chants intertwined with tasteful bass reverbs and droning loops, birthing a unique atmospheric sound.
In The Glowing Man we are drawn closer and closer to what feels like auditory enlightenment. But it doesn't stop there. The extreme versatility of this group is made clear when we are transported into a ballabile with sudden fast paced rock ‘n roll beats, releasing us from the grip of tonal hypnosis. It is clear that Swans intended on making this an unforgettable sensory experience and an honest, raw work of art. The classic four/four time signature is an excellent foundation for song writing and melodies, however this is a method often abandoned by Swans. This is true experimentation and melodic rebellion.
In what is being touted as their last recorded offering Swans are concluding as one of the most volcanic, eruptive, virile rock outfits in contemporary music. Over time, Swans' reputation for aggression and brutality against the audience evaporated. Perhaps it was Jane Jarboe's Organ(ic)background that curbed Gira's quarrelsome nature, although hints of this come through with long drawn out guitar reverbs, deep dark dramatic baritone vocals and rising drum fills. Your internal monologue when seeing them live may consist of the following questions; was that a xylophone I just saw? Yes... A violinist at the back? Yes... Is there an instrument that has strings but you play it horizontally, like you would a keyboard?! Wait now you've lost me. Heavy synthesising- a treat indeed.
It is sort of puzzling that all of these elements can come together in unison and create such pleasurable eruptions. Prepare to be seduced, prepare to be immersed, expect brilliance. Throughout the 29 minute track of The Glowing Man, we are taken from the humming reverberation of developmental guitar and synth, then out of nowhere, we hear "He's a real mean keeper " progressing to "No no no no no no no". The rest of the track continues to throw us around and discombobulates the ears. The album also features movements such as "Cloud of Forgetting", ethereal and melodic at the start, progressively transitioning into a weighty haunting drone concluding with the lyrics "I'm blind".
The lyrics are minimal and abrupt. Gira exclaims "Breathing, reaching, reaching, leave us!". We question what he means. Then we realise again that this is art and the individual interprets it as they please. In an interview at his recording studio in upstate New York, Gira explained that it wasn't his environment that influenced his music but the fear of living a life without purpose and fear of dying before doing so. In my opinion, this album reflects the fragility of life with the darkness off death and the urgency of doing something meaningful.
This may be the last chance we get to hold witness this beautiful and wrenching musical force and where better to see them than the Islington Assembly Hall in London, a venue historical in hosting live music events. Swans are playing on Thursday & Friday the 14th of October.
UK tour dates
Oct 11 - Oran Mor
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct 12 - Northumbria University
Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Oct 13 & 14 - Islington Assembly Hall
London, United Kingdom