leaving meaning

Swans

Young Gods Records, 2019

http://swans.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/2019

Now consisting of Michael Gira and a revolving door of musicians, Swans on its 15th album features Kristof Hahn, Larry Mullins, Yoyo Rohm, The Necks, Anna and Maria von Hausswolff, Ben Frost, Baby Dee, and Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, among others, aiding Gira on this massive double disc.

After the atmospheric and instrumental opener “Hums,” “Annaline” follows with a hazy, ethereal appeal as Gira's deep vocals guide us through the sparse tune. From here, things only get more interesting with the rhythmic, droning, tribal-like “The Hanging Man,” the soothing guitars of the title track, and the 10+ minutes of “Sunfucker,” where countless textures are covered amid plenty of grooves. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The back half of the listen is equally unpredictable, including the nature-esque sounds and twinkling keys of the seemingly improvised “The Nub,” as well as the more straightforward and darker rock of “Some New Things.” Near the end, “What Is This?” finds a place to reside amid percussive strong pop-influenced sounds, and “My Phantom Limb” ends the listen busy and complicated, with a primal ambience and guttural intrigue aimed at zero mainstream appeal.

A listen where the focus is largely on strings, keys, lap steel, clarinets, synth, many other unplugged noisemakers, and Gira's rich, baritone delivery (which has aged well), this isn't the industrial-goth-punk sound that helped Swans make a name for themselves in decades past, not that those influences aren't still present. Now approaching four decades into the Swans’ career, though Gira might be making gentler music (players from his subdued Angels Of Light project are in attendance here), traces of post-rock, experimental jazz, and off-kilter intensity populate the mysterious and undefinable affair.

Certainly a less immediately gratifying listen than much of their catalog, leaving meaning will require several bouts of listening to truly absorb the nuances, quirks and subtle genius that define the project. Of course, all the best records do, right?

Rating: A

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