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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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  • Bongair

    Well shit me, they played for almost 3 hours when i saw 'em last week

    28 May 9:44am Reply
  • itconsumesme

    like the good old days when Swans understood the simple beauty of honest and straightforward music. now they make prog rock, such a shame. what, Oxygen must be in like 11/16 right, I don't even know what's going on anymore, it's all too convoluted now, and it's just to sell out. My brother sez mommy is always shouting, "Sangre es amor!" now and looping the last bit of noise in Toussaint. way too commercial now, Swans are dead. playing shows with the likes of pop goddess Pharmakon and Ben Frost, of Skrillex's ilk. smh what has Swans become

    28 May 8:50am Reply
  • itconsumesme

    man I wish new Swans was more like 90s Offspring

    28 May 8:09am Reply
  • OIIIV

    The Seer is amazing, whatever people may say about it.

    27 May 3:18pm Reply
  • kamiekaymee

    I would of sold my soul to have seen them in Ireland

    27 May 4:08am Reply
  • F7sus4

    @CriticalSwitch: You're perfectly right in what you're saying "on the paper", while in practice you completely fail to notice how genuine Swans' music actually is.

    26 May 8:05pm Reply
  • cadavreflex

    Death exists, solely, within the mind of the beholder.

    26 May 2:43am Reply
  • bantha_fodder_

    Swans are dead.

    26 May 1:09am Reply
  • uglytongue

    stop bullying me!

    25 May 7:11pm Reply
  • cadavreflex

    Uglytongue - The opening of your initial response to me, where you stated concern for my friend who took his life... that's precisely why I love Swans. They create for me a sphere of remembrance, a majesty of memory that otherwise seems never to occur, because this is the music that brought us together - when I first requested Telepathy during his shift at Sanctuary. Swans defy death: my friend lives, our embrace remains and your presence here isn't half as disenchanting as you'd like it to be.

    24 May 8:25pm Reply
  • sunheadbowed

    What a mediocre existence uglytongue must tolerate.

    24 May 1:22am Reply
  • WorriedFire

    thank you based gira

    23 May 7:11pm Reply
  • DonJuanHG

    The seer is the shit, I listen to this all day I can't get enough. New swans fan, they are playing in Glasgow tonight can't believe I'm missing them.

    23 May 12:03am Reply
  • ImSoDarkOmg

    The Seer is shit, TBK has moments,but easy forgetable, My Father is good, though feels like an EP, Soundtracks and Annihilator are Godlike.

    22 May 10:07pm Reply
  • foda-se-

    who reads pitchfork after the ratings they gave to shit in 2012

    22 May 3:00am Reply
  • vittuviladunaa

    find it funny that Pitchfork present themselves as long-time Swans worshippers and yet you can't find a single Swans song or album on their top 90's songs/albums.

    21 May 11:36am Reply
  • CriticalSwitch

    I think this album is a good example of the face of 10s music. It's very trendy these days to seem as "avant-garde" and "obscure" as possible, if you fit into these descriptions then you can be sure that you'll be critically acclaimed by popular media. And I want you to get it straight, I have nothing against real "experimental" music, I myself am a fan of many artists which are often described as "experimental". But there's one important condition that formulates quality of music for me: music should stay genuine. It should represent actual feelings of an artist. I think 10s music is dead by nature because it exchanged genuineness for pretentiousness during this race for experimentalism. That's why I wish I'd live in the 90s when people didn't reject simple beauty of honest and straightforward music like, for example, the Offspring.

    20 May 11:16am Reply
  • CriticalSwitch

    Heh, seems like yet another discussion is turning out to be like me fighting the crowds. Talking about the last Swans album, there are some particular reasons why I don't like it. The main is that this record sounds like the band tried to incorporate as much "cool" genres as possible in one album (people like to describe it as post-punk, drone, math rock, no wave, noise rock, experimental etc.), but failed to be good enough if you look at the album as a whole. Yeah, it sounds like a mishmash of some elements of the listed genres, but that's exactly the reason why the album doesn't have personality and core.

    20 May 11:13am Reply
  • tenrapid

    any comparison of To Be Kind to Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead and Kanye West is clearly either highly confused or just plain trolling. sure Swans have wider appeal now compared to 1997, but that's due to how we access and are exposed to music now and not because they're pandering to some Pitchfork aesthetic.

    20 May 7:52am Reply
  • uglytongue

    you cringe.

    20 May 3:14am Reply
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