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INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

Tag Archives: swans

9/10. Bleak, bruiser.

For many years I’ve been listening to Daydream Nation, 13 Songs, Young Team and Lift Your Antenna, amongst many others, wondering where all these droning, monotonously bleak works of beautiful rambling soundscapes would take me to next. But I never seemed to find any successors. No more examples of that level of craft came my way for a long time. I was stuck with these LPs, looking upon them as some kind of endgame, an evolutionary musical dead end.

I always knew that those albums weren’t really the end. But I couldn’t find anything to hold a torch to their stark power. Everything seemed either too melodic, or too bland. I didnt know what pigeon hole people had put the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed, Sonic Youth etc into. I didnt want to know. I hate bracketing art like that. It restricts and governs it. I really didn’t know where to start looking again. So I waited.

Instead I spent years ploughing through Madlib, DOOM, Zeke, Lee Perry’s back catalogue or a host of other genres. I delved back into Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Authechre, Bowie. I’d put this “post rock” or whatever it is known as, firmly on the back burner.

Just as my copy of Daydream Nation was finally about to disintegrate into overworked dust I stumbled into this LP. I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been so instantly blown away by a new album. Ever. Right from the point the first chords of No Words/No Thoughts (below) whacked me in the ears like Mogwai’s Herod did so many years before I knew this was what I’d been waiting for.

Long, drawn out, droning riffs hammered from a single note dragged me down into the Swans’ peculiar world. Soothing pulses calmed everything down before the vocals crept up behind me with some hacked off, industrial guitar drones and kicked the fuck out of my head for the best part of 10 minutes. Wonderful. Almost 30 years since Michael Gira chose the band’s name beacuse “”Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments” they still fit the bill, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dont get me wrong, it isnt all hard, brutal music. This LP is a beautiful, subtle, crafted masterpiece with many moments of melodic, warm, almost folk/country tinged songwriting. But these moments just serve to make you relax as waves of bleak white guitar noise and deconstructed percussion slide under the melody and drag you back into the hypnotic dirge all over again. It’s an overwhelming LP that commands all of your attention or none at all.

This is head and shoulders my LP of the moment. I have developed a very unhealthy obsession, finding my headphones virtually glued to me wherever I be. The sheer level of craftmanship is astounding, dragging 7 minute tracks out of smashing a single note inside out over and over is no mean feat.

The band’s modus operandi has always been to create music that is at once “soul-uplifting and body-destroying”. An intention they still manage to this day. The highest compliment I can pay this album is to compare it with one of the most powerful, bleakly beautiful books of our times. The similarities with Cormac McCarthy’s epic, The Road, are startling. Much like the book you’ll need a bit of time to yourself after you finish this LP, it’ll drag you down to a dark place but fill you with hope. And you’ll be immensely glad you experienced it.

9/10

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