Swans

Profile:
Swans is a band from New York City, active from 1982 to 1997, reformed in 2010, founded & led by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira.

Marginally associated with the no wave 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 the 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.

In 2010, Michael Gira re-formed the band. A notable change was post-reunion Swans did not have Jarboe as part of their group, which makes for post-reunion album to have significant tonal differences, and as heard on leaving meaning. (2019), other female voices.
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Albums

ND 03, N11 Swans - Filth album art Swans Filth (Album, Comp) Neutral Records (3) ND 03, N11 Germany 1983 Sell This Version
KCC 1 Swans - Cop album art Swans Cop (Album) K.422 KCC 1 UK 1984 Sell This Version
KSK-860415 Swans - Real Love album art Swans Real Love (Album) Not On Label (Swans) KSK-860415 UK 1986 Sell This Version
KCCM 1 Swans - Holy Money album art Swans Holy Money (MiniAlbum, Album) K.422 KCCM 1 UK 1986 Sell This Version
KCC 2 Swans - Greed album art Swans Greed (Album) K.422 KCC 2 UK 1986 Sell This Version
BURN1 Swans - Public Castration Is A Good Idea album art Swans Public Castration Is A Good Idea (Album) Not On Label (Swans Self-released) BURN1 UK 1986 Sell This Version
GA-212 Swans - Children Of God album art Swans Children Of God (Album) Caroline Records GA-212 Spain 1987 Sell This Version
Love One CD Swans - Feel Good Now album art Swans Feel Good Now (Album) Not On Label (Swans Self-released) Love One CD UK 1987 Sell This Version
256 438-1, UNI 601 Swans - The Burning World album art Swans The Burning World (Album) UNI Records 256 438-1, UNI 601 Europe 1989 Sell This Version
none Swans - Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room album art Swans Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room Not On Label (Swans Self-released) none UK 1990 Sell This Version
YGLP 3 Swans - White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity album art Swans White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records YGLP 3 UK 1991 Sell This Version
YGCD 5B, YG CD 5, RTD 344.0350.2.41, 334.0350.2 41 Swans - Love Of Life album art Swans Love Of Life (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records YGCD 5B, YG CD 5, RTD 344.0350.2.41, 334.0350.2 41 UK & Europe 1992 Sell This Version
none Swans - Omniscience album art Swans Omniscience (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records none US 1992 Sell This Version
DIS CD1 Swans - Kill The Child - 1985,1986,1987 Live album art Swans Kill The Child - 1985,1986,1987 Live (Album) Disaster Records DIS CD1 UK 1995 Sell This Version
YG CD 009 Swans - The Great Annihilator album art Swans The Great Annihilator (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records YG CD 009 UK 1994 Sell This Version
YGCD010 Swans - Soundtracks For The Blind album art Swans Soundtracks For The Blind (Album, EP) Young God Records, Atavistic YGCD010 UK 1996 Sell This Version
YG03 Swans - Swans Are Dead album art Swans Swans Are Dead (Album) Atavistic, Young God Records YG03 US 1998 Sell This Version
YG43 Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky album art Swans My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Album) Young God Records YG43 US 2010 Sell This Version
YGX999 Swans - We Rose From Your Bed With The Sun In Our Head album art Swans We Rose From Your Bed With The Sun In Our Head (Album) Young God Records YGX999 US 2012 Sell This Version
none Swans - The Seer album art Swans The Seer (Album) Young God Records none 2012 Sell This Version
YG6969 Swans - Not Here / Not Now album art Swans Not Here / Not Now(2xCD, Album, Ltd, Num) Young God Records YG6969 US 2013 Sell This Version
STUMM364, YG46 Swans - To Be Kind album art Swans To Be Kind (Album) Young God Records STUMM364, YG46 Europe 2014 Sell This Version
YG1954 Swans - The Gate album art Swans The Gate(2xCD, Ltd, Num) Young God Records YG1954 US 2015 Sell This Version
CDSTUMM 389, YG58 Swans - The Glowing Man album art Swans The Glowing Man (Album) Young God Records CDSTUMM 389, YG58 Europe 2016 Sell This Version
YG60 Swans - Deliquescence album art Swans Deliquescence(2xCD, Album, Ltd) Young God Records YG60 US 2017 Sell This Version

Reviews Show All 37 Reviews

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Anthon40

Anthon40

September 29, 2019
edited 10 months ago
The Swans need a break. The current style is getting tedious. Maybe Gira will go back to solo acoustic? That was his best period.
nicksoulsby

nicksoulsby

August 18, 2018
I've been living with the music of Swans some two decades plus and there's STILL always some new detail that enthralls me or a moment of sound so powerful that it hits me hard as a rock to the side of the head. Love it so much I wound up interviewing 125 people Gira, Jarboe, 30+ ex-Swans, Thurston Moore, Bill Laswell...) and creating the book SWANS: Sacrifice And Transcendence - The Oral History. Whole time I was doing it I wound up using Discogs to plug in some rarities or to hear things in different formats and editions...Swans is one of those bands that rewards obsession.
Halo-rez

Halo-rez

July 31, 2018
New To SWANS...
So I've been aware that Swans existed for close to 30 years. I was always curious about them, considering references I'd come across and things I'd read over the years. Always thought I might check them out one day. So about 3 months ago I decided to dive in, and ever since I've been drowning in Swans! I specifically decided to start with the output from the original period (1982-1997) first, with the intention to go to "Angels of Light" next, and then after that dive into the modern era material ("My Father" through "Glowing Man".) To date I have acquired all the albums from the original era, and here are my thoughts so far (keep in mind that I'm still just getting to know some of it)
Swans / Filth / Cop / Young God - OK - Interesting, but I don't love it.
Greed / Holy Money / Children of God- Very good, like it a lot!
Burning World - different, good.
White Light / Love Of Life / Great Annihilator - Love it!
Soundtracks for the Blind - Good, though somewhat disappointed in the lack of "songs" - my most recent purchase, still just getting to know it (2 listens so far)
So based on all that, I ask you... Do I go to Angels of Light next? Or skip straight to the modern era Swans albums?
robert.huffman.311

robert.huffman.311

October 5, 2017
edited over 3 years ago
I never knew SWANS but after hearing Gira's I'm Singing To You From My Room I became a huge fan of anything he's involved with. I like it dark and crazy and he delivers the good!
Bradx

Bradx

May 13, 2017
Saw them in a tiny club in '86 where they filled the room with their own PA so there was hardly any room for an audience. Proceeded to play THEE heaviest skull-crushing noise for about an hour. At points I felt myself moving backwards with the force of the pulverising attack.
My trousers were flapping in the breeze and my face felt like it was melting. The best bit was the near-silence in between each downward smash of brute-force bass. The nearest thing for comparison would be a very scary fairground ride where you don't know if you're going to survive.
I heard later that structural damage was done to the club that night. My ears rang for 3 days.
Nicolas112

Nicolas112

February 22, 2017
The Best band that ever came out and remains the best after these decades!!
rpremi

rpremi

September 25, 2016
A fantastic band that has made some incredible 2-3 hour epics, really hope they will reissue "Soundtracks for the Blind" on Vinyl.
poneromusikologist

poneromusikologist

November 3, 2014
edited over 5 years ago
SWANS were the best and ONLY doomish NO-WAVE band in all of heroindom.
Their integral no-wave-ishness is usually lost on listeners who haven't heard the screaming saxophone and churlish Lower East Side freight-elevator grit of the first EP, but in any incarnation there is a predominantly non-idiomatic quality that results from independent thought and auteurship; the SWANS molted thru several skins but always remained their own unique style underneath. If, like me, it's their amoral power that you're after, "YOUNG GOD" ep was their best by a wide margin with the EPs dominating over the LPs generally and, for me, the ass fell out after "CHILDREN.." which was the favorite of masochistic Catholics in colleges everywhere.
That being said, Gira is a real artist and doesn't adhere to phases.
Prime SWANS was:
1. The whole band strung out on Heroin, frowning AT YOU.
2. Gira STARING DOWN Audience members HATEFULLY from behind his suspenders as he set up.
3. Al Kizys BREAKING HIS BASS STRING by pulling it way too hard.
4. Dust and debris from the rafters drifting down like a filthy snowfall because ov the band's sub bass disturbances.
"Open your mouth."
666monkeyboy

666monkeyboy

September 19, 2014
There's nothing quite like the brutal, aural raping one receives at a live Swans show.

Nothing...

Long may it continue.
BoBsPfhorever

BoBsPfhorever

June 2, 2014
edited over 6 years ago
An impressive multi-genre band, tackling and succeeding at different genres of music, such as post-punk, industrial, metal, neofolk, instrumental rock, and progressive rock. Favorite album: 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind.

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