Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Swans - A Band with a Notion

characteristic of the spectra of carbon stars, comets and of burning hydrocarbon fuels

Serpentine. Complex. Cunning. 
Gathering small wings. Rivulets of abandon harnessed into a dark green mineral. 
Opaque. Listless. Controled.
Gathering speed in sudden stages. Mottled half circles. Subtle and supple. A rampant monster striding down corridors thick with ivy.
This is Swan, a band with an agenda, one that began post punk and one that mixes that spit and sawdust approach with that of the grand nemesis prog rock. It is a faultless union; engaging two seemingly
disparate, opposing ideologies into one seamless whole. 
This is Swan.
Contained contagion spreading itself in sinuous fluidity. A beast of impossible proportions. Little 'n large, factotum through fiat. An unlikely principle. Let it be done, let it come undone, let it be done and did. A paradox pondering a parable, a story that starts like an unending voyage across petulant seas. Boundless, limitless, unfettered, unrestrained, ungovernable...roguish. 
This is Swan.
Michael Gira. multi-instrumentalist, born in 1954, now sixty, is the engine room behind the New York band. The experimental cluster whose manifesto was surely conceived and written by Gira have rode the edge for nigh on thirty two years. It is thanks to Gira that the vagabond sojourn has wandered down the avenues and pathways it has. Gira is an evangelist when it comes to seeking new sounds, he divines the source and the current the band will take even if they have freedom to express themselves with how they play the music, how they interpret it.
At age sixteen Gira was in prison in Jerusalem having been sent there for doing drugs. This by no means defines the man, we all experiment in different ways as we develop, but it does illustrate the sort of spirit he is; it does give an idea to what forces drive him on.

From 1988 until 1997 Swans trimmed tail feathers, gracefully adding muscle into divinely experimental music. The farewell was more aurevoir than a firm goodbye for in 2010 Gira reformed Swans. The sound was a palimpsest upon which layer after layer was added, a stripped back minimalist noise. Both bleak and black, surreal at times but always with that pulse, the ever present throb of latent energy bubbling lava like under the cadence of calamity held in abeyance. 

Stark as Ravens on a winter skyline. Moths billowing about a guttering candle flame. Fish shoaling beneath the fluke of a Whale. They bear a power harnessed by a single source, a slow, downcast beat, like that of the blues, that is touch and cornerstone to all they do. It is an irresistible rhythm.


The intensity of performance manifests itself in often long tracks. This is understandably off putting to many who would otherwise enjoy this band. I find the music challenging but accessible. Their squeaks and squawks are non existent. There is no noodling, no self centered moments of extended improvisation. All they play has a point and is held together by a tension as palpable as taut wire.


Swan bands consist of several sequences of vibrational bands 
scattered throughout the visible spectrum


Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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