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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 reactivated Swans.
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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 about 1 year 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 4 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 4 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.
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 ...

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