Friday, May 30, 2014

apocalyptic, violent, polarized, catharsis, elevation, bliss, and being sprayed with battery acid:"prophets pulling back the veil" and "like going to church"

 Two articles on the band Swans..

From Mike Powell:

Swans are a band that conjure primal forms of power: thunder and lightning, fire and brimstone, master over slave, predator over prey. Their earliest albums came out in the wake of New York's no wave scene, a loose, radical contest to see who could make rock'n'roll sound as ugly as possible while still retaining the rhythms and forms that made it rock'n'roll. Swans, not central to the scene, countered with the possibility of wiping out rock altogether. The result was something that sounds sort of like monks chanting in front of a jet engine. Frontman Michael Gira once compared being in the band to "trudging up a sand hill wearing a hair shirt, being sprayed with battery acid, with a midget taunting you"-- a description that could just as easily describe listening to them....

//Stylistically, the album draws a jagged line through a universe of serious, apocalyptic music, from country blues to free jazz to drone and the brutal, hypnotic guitar rock Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth made while Gira was still moaning into the void...

...Vision has always been a metaphor for both political counterculture and religious mysticism. Prophets, pulling back the veil, "seeing through" things in an interest of revealing what they believe to be the raw, burning truth-- this is what Swans have always been about, and what The Seer seems more explicitly occupied with than anything they've ever done before...

..In the world of Swans, the pain of catharsis is always in service of elevating to some higher plane of being. Granted, most people probably prefer to find this in exercise and not public sex, but when sifting through Swans' apparent bleakness, it's important to recognize that their goals are and always have been to remind us of the ways extreme states of being, however intense, a unique kind of blessing. One of their live albums was called Feel Good Now, which is as succinct a self-summary as any artist could offer: Later, Swans bluntly suggest, you'll be dead...

..r 30 years Swans have challenged the boundaries between beauty and ugliness, music and noise, catharsis and abuse. To borrow a verb from their own violent, polarized world, The Seer is the album that transcends them.  link

--From Brandon Strousy:

Pitchfork: To Be Kind strikes me as an unusually positive record for you—it ends with the line, "There are millions and millions of stars in your eyes." How did this happen?

Michael Gira: If you're looking for a religious conversion, it's not here. [facetiously] Yes, I decided to give up alcohol and convert to Jesus. No, I discovered this sort of joy in the music when Swans reformed in 2010. Once we started touring, I realized the thing that was really worth pursuing was the bliss in it. I don’t feel complete or alive unless I’m making something.

Pitchfork: The live show is so intense, do you have to do any sort of training to physically prepare for a tour at this point?
MG: Oh, I’m just constantly fucked—I’ll just drop at some point. I’m not a physical fitness kind of person. I mean, I can dig ditches or shovel snow just great, but doing some kind of fitness regimen is really tedious to me, so the set itself becomes a regimen. It’s like a workout. It’s exhausting, certainly. We just work ourselves as deeply into the music as we can, and when it really works, it’s like going to church


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