Swans

Swans

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Swans is a band from New York City, New York, United States, 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.

The influence of Swans upon the music world is profound. Across their 15 years of existence, the various styles they explored gave birth to grindcore (Napalm Death, Nasum) modern "cinematic" post-rock (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mono), and atmospheric sludge metal (Isis, Neurosis).

In January 2010, Michael Gira reactivated Swans and released a new album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky on September 2010, and the band simultaneously embarked on a world tour scheduled to last eighteen months. The band had been chosen by Portishead to perform at the ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror festivals that they curated in July 2011 at London’s Alexandra Palace and in September 2011 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

On August 28, 2012, Swans released The Seer, a double-album running 2 hours in length. Frontman Michael Gira described the album as taking "30 years to make. It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined. But it’s unfinished, like the songs themselves. It’s one frame in a reel. The frames blur, blend and will eventually fade." Describing the songwriting process, Gira said, "The songs began on an acoustic guitar, then were fleshed out with (invaluable) help from my friends, then were further tortured and seduced in the studio, and now they await further cannibalism and force-feeding as we prepare to perform some of them live, at which point they’ll mutate further, endlessly, or perhaps be discarded for a while."
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Swans Discography

Albums

Swans Filth (Album, Comp) Neutral Records (3) Germany 1983 Sell This Version
Swans Cop (Album) K.422 UK 1984 Sell This Version
Swans Greed (Album) K.422 UK 1986 Sell This Version
Swans Holy Money (Album) K.422 UK 1986 Sell This Version
Swans Real Love (Album) Not On Label (Swans) UK 1986 Sell This Version
Swans Public Castration Is A Good Idea (Album) Not On Label (Swans Self-released) UK 1986 Sell This Version
Swans Children Of God (Album) Caroline Records Spain 1987 Sell This Version
Swans Feel Good Now (Album) Not On Label (Swans Self-released) UK 1987 Sell This Version
Swans The Burning World (Album) UNI Records Europe 1989 Sell This Version
Swans Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room Not On Label (Swans Self-released) UK 1990 Sell This Version
Swans White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records UK 1991 Sell This Version
Swans Omniscience (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records US 1992 Sell This Version
Swans Love Of Life (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records UK & Europe 1992 Sell This Version
Swans The Great Annihilator (Album) Young God Records, Young God Records UK 1994 Sell This Version
Swans Kill The Child - 1985,1986,1987 Live (Album) Disaster Records UK 1995 Sell This Version
Swans Soundtracks For The Blind (Album) Young God Records UK 1996 Sell This Version
Swans Swans Are Dead (Album) Atavistic, Young God Records US 1998 Sell This Version
Swans My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Album) Young God Records US 2010 Sell This Version
Swans We Rose From Your Bed With The Sun In Our Head (Album) Young God Records US 2012 Sell This Version
Swans The Seer (Album) Young God Records 2012 Sell This Version
YG6969 Swans Not Here / Not Now(2xCD, Album, Ltd, Num) Young God Records YG6969 US 2013 Sell This Version
Swans To Be Kind (Album) Young God Records Europe 2014 Sell This Version
YG1954 Swans The Gate(2xCD, Ltd, Num) Young God Records YG1954 US 2015 Sell This Version
Swans The Glowing Man (Album) Young God Records Europe 2016 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

Swans Swans (EP) Labor US 1982 Sell This Version

Reviews Show All 13 Reviews

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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.
chewslife

chewslife

March 11, 2016
In my opinion, Die Tür Ist Zu should be moved to compilations as it's not really an album so much as a teaser for SFTB with a couple of exclusive versions and B-sides tacked on.
nondor

nondor

November 3, 2014
edited about 1 year 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 2 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.
mscdsx

mscdsx

April 25, 2012
There were few bands which managed to deliver stories about fragility of human existence, behaviour and relations in extreme ways, either through rage of noisy sonic assaults or gentle, melancholic and almost pastoral manner. No matter how they did it, SWANS always pointed deviant and sinister side with painful accuracy, always bared to the bone, leaving you exposed, unsecure, alone and confronted with hidden in each of us. SWANS and Gira always knew how their turmoil and pain become ours. Each of their performances I saw was cathartic, reminding me of purification ceremony, confession or collective expulsion of invisible from our souls...
choenyi

choenyi

February 12, 2008
Of all the bands to which I've been exposed, SWANS is, and has been for twenty years, my absolute favorite. I suspect there are many who feel this way. Their entire career I find well above average to rather brilliant, but the material recorded in the 1980s pulls me back for more frequent listens than any other music. The "Cop" LP I've listened to more than any other musical gesture by far. Listening to it again tonight, having obsessed over it on every system, in every car, in every house I've ever owned or rented ... I am again, as I have been repeatedly, completely amazed at the impeccably subtle and detail-aware masterful production (not to mention the blameless songwriting and flattening deliverance). Drum effects that strike only once in the album, etc. ... a sonic field that is at once static, wall-like, and approaching the fathomless depth of space itself--textures within seemingly repetitive/featureless surfaces that upon thousands of listens still cannot be in their entirety grokked ...
Crijevo

Crijevo

May 9, 2006
edited over 10 years ago
A brilliant group - it's not about love or hate, it's about both. Depending how you're perceiving them. The lyrics are very brutal and most of the time I hadn't had the nerve to read them fully. Disgust in general - whether sexual or otherwise, is Gira's strongest weapon. Music is somewhat secondary to his extreme stories but that doesn't undermine the total effect that Swans remain one of the truest alternative among alternatives today. Brutality any 'dark' person in music biz would kill for.

Swans approach truly summarizes the serial killers' expertise - listening to their music brings on sick atmosphere of tortured victims somewhere where shrieks and calls for help simply don't work. On the other hand, Swans are a perfect equivalent to our inner struggles about life, especially about our perception of sexuality and human deviance. In here, there is little truth about each and every one of us.
Alastis

Alastis

April 13, 2006
edited over 10 years ago
You will either love or hate Swans, but usually there are no people who are indifferent to what they did throughout 20+ years of existence as a band. They never became extremely popular (aside from few minor hits here and there), but this doesn't have to do with the quality of the material. Rather, lack of popularity have to do with the fact that its hard to classify them. Much of what they were doing had to do with experimental music and ambience, but then there were albums like "Public Castration Is A Good Idea" leaning towards noisy rock.
Overall, this is a stuff that everyone's nightmares are made of. Whereas a lot of bands were/are trying hard to put on a mask, Swans were all real and, probably, due to that, underappreciated by large masses. Thank You mr. Gira and thank You, Jarboe. You won't be forgotten.
enfantterrible

enfantterrible

January 29, 2006
edited over 10 years ago
Painful sincerity, devastating lyrics, powerful musical content and a context of constant self alienation. Swans its all these and more. Yet they cant be defined as folk rock or industrial or avantgarde music. their music capabilities is so wide and versatile that even though their themes about the dark side of the human soul and the decadence of our world were their tour de force for more than three decades, you cant spot a source of boredom, a hint of senility, an uninteresting album or a lame song in their work.
Staying away from any direct political reference they are free from polemic but not from thought, all the contrary that happens with the "Neo Folk" bands that are fluorishing everywhere nowadays.
If theres a purveryor of apocalyptic music,or a "godfather" of the "neo folk" music this is SWANS. But they spot not the apocalypse of history in a pretentious and pompous way but the apocalypse that lies within human soul. always doing so in a smart, powerful, honest and not so capitalist way.
This is beautiful intense dark music for black hearted people.
Incredibly after more than 30 years of career and almost a decade of being dissolved Swans remain to be more or less underated and unknown. Thats good. gold is always hidden to the eyes of the mortals.

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