The era of big festival reunions may finally be drawing to a close, as reunited Coachella bands like Ride and Drive Like Jehu drew tiny, depressing crowds to tents the size of aircraft hangers. With Jehu in particular, it was just sad, and I couldn't bear to be one of the 80-or-so people filling out that room for long. Swans, who are technically a reunion act even though they're doing the best work of their careers right now, brought a crowd just a tiny bit bigger than Jehu's, and they had to contend with closing the Gobi tent, playing at the same time as the Weeknd and Axwell ^ Ingrosso, the Swedish dance duo whose euphoric thumps kept bleeding through the tent walls and trying to kill Swans' vibe.
But Swans made a bad situation work by leaning into it, stretching out and droning for extended stretches. Really, Swans shouldn't be bringing out huge crowds, at least when it's not their show. They tend to play new music live rather than anything the crowd might've heard, and I think the endless warm bass-heavy ambient piece they played was intended for another album. All their layers of sound were genuinely pretty during that stretch, and they cast a spell. But then, without warning, the band suddenly lurched into a deranged blues stomp, catching the entire universe off-guard. I saw people run out of the tent as soon as the thunderously loud beat kicked in. It was awesome.
Swans don’t typically share videos of their live performances, but two polished clips of the band just appeared on YouTube, performances of “A Little God In My Hands” back in Toronto last February and “Just A Boy” at France’s Hellfest in 2013. The “A Little God In My Hands” video arrives accompanied by this statement… More »
If this year’s Coachella had an off day, it was Saturday. Of the festival’s three headliners, Saturday night top draw Jack White is probably the least exciting, though he’s still an electric presence with a deep catalog. The festival’s organizers seemed to sense this, booking White to play second-to-last on the big stage and throwing… More »
The Mental Health Channel has a series called The Inside Story that profiles people who “reveal their mental health diagnoses and their paths to overcome them.” So far the program has covered panic disorders, bipolar 1, and bipolar 2. In the most recent episode, which covers clinical depression, the show profiled Thor Harris, best know… More »
Back when we premiered the “Absisto” video, we mentioned that the new Cold Specks album Neuroplasticity features a couple songs with Swans leader Michael Gira. One of them is “Exit Plan,” on which Gira’s creeping baritone undergirds Al Spx’s soulful intonations about love, grace, and death. “Death is swallowed up in victory,” she sings, quoting… More »
For Swans leader Michael Gira the act of making music is the act of perpetual reinvention. After The Seer, Gira and his band and several new collaborators return with the two-hour record To Be Kind. The project was partially funded through a crowdfunding venture: Supporters received everything from signed records and posters to — for… More »
Have you ever heard voices? The sound of people echoing around in your head, unsettling you deeply, even when you know they’re not real? I have. Only a couple of times. Didn’t last long. I was at the library near my house one day once, maybe nine years old, spending hours paging through old movie… More »
There are times when it’s easy to determine the 5 Best Songs Of The Week, and others when it gets a little tougher for us to figure out what should go where, what belongs and what doesn’t. Then there are weeks like this, where debates about inclusion and placement stretch into long email chains over… More »
New York postpunk legends Swans gave us their thundering monster The Seer in 2012, and they’re about to follow it up with the new album To Be Kind, a ferociously anticipated album for people who like to have their neural cavities caved in by music. “Oxygen,” the To Be Kind track that the band just… More »
We’re officially a week into spring, and in New York City, at least, it’s actually almost starting to feel like it. Somehow, though, this week’s 5 Best Songs might be the darkest collection we’ve seen yet, filled with loss, regret, fear, and death. Hell of a way to send out winter and welcome in the… More »
The monstrous, long-running New York postpunk band Swans tore a hole in the universe with their last album, 2012’s monolithic and unrelenting The Seer, and they intend to follow it up this spring with their new album To Be Kind. “A Little God In My Hands,” the first of the album’s tracks that the band… More »
Good news for those of us who like dark things: The reawakened postpunk demons Swans, who melted frontal lobes with their monolithic, death-dealing 2012 double album The Seer, are returning with another massive slab of epicness. As Pitchfork reports, the new Swans album is called To Be Kind, it’s out this spring, and it’ll sprawl… More »
We’re almost (almost!) done reflecting on the year that was, so it’s time to start taking a closer look at the year that will be. For the past several years, we’ve ranked our most anticipated albums. Today the feature returns, bigger than ever, with a whopping 100 records we’re looking forward to hearing, enjoying, debating,… More »
The literary giant Alexis Krauss said it best: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. From big-budget campaigns to no-budget crowdfunding, the haves and have-nots alike made selling albums an art unto itself this year, staving off the format’s impending extinction for now and turning music fandom into an exceptionally… More »
Michael Gira has a habit of posting very entertaining things on Facebook, his one real use of social media. Today he posted the link and info to the newest Swans live album, Not Here/Not Now, each one an autographed and handmade release. It reflects the band’s current live show, which aside from a lengthy versio… More »
Michael Gira prefers to call the version of Swans that emerged in early 2010 a reconstitution rather than a reunion. It is easy to see why the word choice matters to him; the term “reunion” comes with a great deal of historical baggage that simply does not apply to the band’s current iteration. They have… More »
Swans founder Michael Gira isn’t afraid to let songs wander around the half-hour mark. In conversation, on the other hand, he is relentlessly punctual. Perhaps he’s been asked every conceivable question after three decades as a musician. Perhaps he views interviews as a mandatory part of the grind of running a label and working a… More »
It started in the sewer. Ugliness embodied. Noise like you’d never heard. The bellowing drawl of an unhinged slave driver, spitting abuse and mantras of degradation.
“Nobody beats you like a cop, with his club.”
“Someone weaker than you should rape you.”
Lyrics sailed past pitch-black into some deeper,… More »