The Swans upcoming 100 minute goliath live album, We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head, received an 8.0 rated review from Pitchfork today.
Published May 8th 2012:
" The voice of Swans frontman and founder Michael Gira is one of stentorian command. Even during the lightest moments of his three-decade career, Gira's bellow has been deep, dark, and direct, both an apt vehicle for his raw lines about spiritual tumult and human filth and a compelling accompaniment to Swans' stylized roil. But at least on We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head, the new live double-disc set from his rebuilt old band, Gira sounds exhausted. That Pentecostal bark has weathered into a battered bleat. At the start of "Eden Prison", for instance, Gira's voice shakes and breaks, barely shaping the syllables into their proper forms. "Within the walls of Eden Prison," he opens, struggling to climb over the relative quiet of drifting guitar and a twinkling vibraphone, "there is a mark upon our stone." We Rose comes culled from Swans' first tour in more than a decade, an intercalary period in which Gira introduced the world to Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family, played solo acoustic shows, and led the comparatively mild-mannered Angels of Light. Pushing 60, maybe he just doesn't have the requisite stamina to lead Swans, a band once so loud and dangerous they made fans vomit.
But sit tight. The 100 minutes of music that precede "Eden Prison" on We Rose make for an exhaustive listen, with 15-minute sprawls of suffocating noise, drums that suggest a fleet of fists to the face and loads of shouts about praising God, committing infanticide, and welcoming slavery. It's the kind of hyper-brutal album that requires an intermission or, at the very least, a long hard look at a plain white wall when its two hours have ended. Though We Rose pulls from gigs in Melbourne, Berlin, and New York City, this collection offers a mostly accurate recapitulation of the 102 sets that this iteration of Swans played since the 2010 release of My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, the band's first album in 13 years. Loud, mean, and complicated, this six-piece is an articulate goliath, capable of drowning out Gira in waves before disappearing into pools of silence without warning. Each piece of this unit deserves mention: The finesse of Norman Westberg's guitar playing offers the perfect foil for Gira's general force. Christopher Pravdica's bass snaps as much as it throbs, while Christoph Hahn uses his double-lap steel guitar not as a country-music accent mark but as an origin of general abrasion. Drummer Phil Puleo and multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris often double the rhythm, giving that old Swans stomp bigger feet. This band is at once visceral and subtle, reverent with the source but relentless with the sound. During "Sex, God, Sex", Swans suggest the sound of a thousand whips lashing at once; during "The Seer", they shape feedback into geometric patterns that Sonic Youth and Sunn O))) alike might admire.
So back to Gira's apparent feebleness: Both times I saw Swans on this tour, they pounded harder than I could have remembered or imagined; Gira lead them through these live shows for two years, so of course he was tired. For one gapless, 30-minute expanse, Swans segue a new sheet-of-noise instrumental, "The Seer", into the barking-and-marching classic "I Crawled". Gira spends the last quarter of the track moaning, sighing, and doing whatever else he can to sound completely mad. The band lashes together one more time, more malevolent and urgent than before, Gira hollering like he's finally lost. When it's over, he verifies the drain: "If I had a fucking knife, I'd cut my head off right now." Somehow, Swans then manage to play a 12-minute version of "Eden Prison" that starts and finishes like a whisper but, at its middle, reaches an apogee of high-volume repetition and reward. It's a marvelous payoff of perseverance, a promise that, no, this band or its leader isn't done.
In January of 2010, when Gira announced that he was reforming Swans, he wrote a predictably didactic open letter that made his purpose with the band clear: "After five Angels of Light albums, I needed a way to move FORWARD, in a new direction, and it just so happens that revivifying the idea of Swans is allowing me to do that... THIS IS NOT A REUNION. It's not some dumb-ass nostalgia act. It is not repeating the past." Some will see this 10-song tracklist and bemoan the absence of old material; four of the tracks come from 2010's My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, while two supposedly come from The Seer, the new Swans album that the first, very-limited edition of this package helped fund in a sort of de facto Kickstarter campaign. ("I decided to start touring Swans, and it's like mainlining heroin," Gira told me just before the tour started, prophesying the apparent addiction.) But there are plenty of other Swans live albums if you need to hear that old stuff, and Gira has long clung close to what's most recent, trying new sounds and new members and new modes with admittedly variable results. We Rose is a perfect void of nostalgia that comes at a moment when similar indie rock heroes have reunited to defile the corpses of early works for lump sums of cash. For the last two years, one of the world's most bellicose bands has paid respect to its legacy largely by leaving it alone and tried to expand it by testing its old limits. Here, they do just that, beating past successes with the purpose of the present and showing that-- reunion or no, 58-year-old frontman or no-- this is exactly the kind of forward-pointing roadmark Swans deserve." - words Grayson Currin
Pre-order We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head HERE.
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