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Swans

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New York, United States (1982 – 1997, 2010 – present)

Swans is a band from New York, United States, active from 1982 to 1997, reformed in 2010, led by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira.

Marginally associated with the scene at first, their original sound was slow and extremely heavy, with live performances that were often so brutal and physical that in a number of instances certain audience members were made ill, police were called and venues were shut down. This early physical sound is possibly best heard on the live album Public Castration Is a Good Idea.

Their initial style shifted a little by the time Swans released seminal twin albums Greed and Holy Money. The music had sped up, at times being even more punishing than their earlier output. Drum machines and samples were slightly more prominent. Michael Gira was joined vocally by Jarboe which gave the band a broader sonic range. Tracks featuring Jarboe were often quieter, even pretty, acting as counterpoint to the more harrowing themes on the albums. Over time, this style would come to dominate Swans’ output, although they somehow seem to have been able to make a strummed acoustic guitar seem as brutal as their earlier amped-up assaults. The lush instrumentation of their albums from the late 1980s and the 1990’s anticipated the birth of post-rock.

Swans eventually broke up in 1997; Gira went on to release some solo work, later forming the band The Angels of Light, who continue many of the themes and styles found in (later) Swans. Jarboe releases solo work and frequently works with other bands and artists; recently she released an album with Neurosis, a group clearly heavily influenced by Swans.

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  • Mackck

    @mikebaal I'm with you. It's like the emotional core is gone in neo-Swans. In the late 80s and 90s they got into really deep stuff, particularly with Soundtracks. Now it's seems to be more about, and I quote Michael Gira, ecstasy, which has its merit too. They still get a bit freaky from time to time, but they're not digging with bear hands straight into your soul any more, which one seems to enjoy so much for some reason.

    3 hours ago Reply
  • itconsumesme

    there are sections across TBK and The Seer lasting minutes at a time that are denser, more intense, and more dissonant, than anything on Swans' early albums. it's the repetition of that bludgeoning that sublimes to narcosis, such that certain aural elements seem to fade, bleed into others, or even completely disappear after a time, when actually they are still there in the mix, like the bells at the end of Screen Shot, the two notes on piano in A Little God, or the percussion in the second climax of BTS. that is the jarring effect of new Swans. "easy listening" isn't very far off the mark.

    3 Mar 3:53pm Reply
  • mikebaal

    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've been listening to Swans for a long time. Their earlier material was completely jarring to me when I first heard it. "To Be Kind" sounds like easy listening by comparison.

    2 Mar 3:37am Reply
  • joshuak89

    "It wasn't until I saw Swans live last night that I completely understood what 'with your eyes closed, close your eyes' meant. When I told Michael that the only things I've experienced that I could compare to the live Swans experience were deep meditation, a bad mushroom trip, being awake during surgery, and really slow, really rough, really passionate sex, he told me that's exactly what he was going for." Just listening to this band for the first time, this is was quite the hook haha.

    1 Mar 8:36pm Reply
  • NeonDub

    "I dont see how people can say To Be Kind is a snoozefest...its absolutely jarring to say the least." Yeah, jarring how much of a snoozefest it is. *ZING*

    1 Mar 3:23am Reply
  • Massive_Anus

    i once told gira that his hair will fall out

    28 Feb 5:34am Reply
  • jackinjake

    Oh yeah, as I was talking to Michael, after the show, a guy walked up while we were talking, and said "hey, Michael! I was the keyboardist for ISIS... great set, tonight!"

    28 Feb 2:37am Reply
  • jackinjake

    It wasn't until I saw Swans live last night that I completely understood what 'with your eyes closed, close your eyes' meant. When I told Michael that the only things I've experienced that I could compare to the live Swans experience were deep meditation, a bad mushroom trip, being awake during surgery, and really slow, really rough, really passionate sex, he told me that's exactly what he was going for.

    27 Feb 4:15am Reply
  • Evilninja1337

    I dont see how people can say To Be Kind is a snoozefest...its absolutely jarring to say the least. "Just a Little Boy" made my stomach churn the first time I listened to it.

    26 Feb 2:10pm Reply
  • helvettt

    Finally seeing them this weekend. Hope they're as good as everyone says, considering Gira saying they're only playing "new material" lately.

    26 Feb 3:15am Reply
  • Massive_Anus

    in this shoutbox: guys who listen to Tycho and Lana Del Rey call Swans boring.

    25 Feb 4:22pm Reply
  • chaos_reigns

    mikebaal, nope, you're not alone in thinking this. new swans albums are so goddamn boring and much worse than their earlier stuff, dunno why people are so excited about it. swans before 2000 were truly amazing, white light & the great annihilator & swans are dead - masterpieces <3

    24 Feb 4:54pm Reply
  • VCR-1984

    I will always understand the immutable blooming glory of this band. [2]

    24 Feb 2:57pm Reply
  • Wotsthedeal

    Give me one more two hour long album, Swans, and I can die happy [2]

    22 Feb 4:15pm Reply
  • PlayingDead-

    the world is coming to an end

    21 Feb 9:26pm Reply
  • F7sus4

    @EnderFoShowYo: +1 :-)

    21 Feb 7:48pm Reply
  • bratyaverno

    oche horosho

    20 Feb 3:26pm Reply
  • EnderFoShowYo

    yeah, you are

    20 Feb 6:49am Reply
  • mikebaal

    It pains me to say this, but despite the mountain of acclaim behind the new incarnation of Swans and their popularity being greater than ever, I frankly find their music incredibly boring now. Their 90's material was the height of their excellence. I wish I was as jazzed as everyone else seems to be over this stuff, or as jazzed as I was when I first discovered Swans back in the day. "To Be Kind" in particular is a total snoozefest. Am I alone in thinking this?

    20 Feb 3:28am Reply
  • Massive_Anus

    Give me one more two hour long album, Swans, and I can die happy

    20 Feb 2:18am Reply
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