Swans – “Oxygen”

“Oxygen” is the second single to drop from Swan’s latest epic To Be Kind (after last month’s stellar, staggeringly funky “A Little God in My Hands”), and it is among the fiercest and most thrilling moments of its two-hour-plus runtime. It is certainly the most thoroughly noisy piece on the project, built on an unwavering no-wave bass groove and skittering drum line – guitars, lap steel, and finally brass falls piling on, amounting to something paradoxically crushing and danceable.

But the icing on the (dense, dense) cake is frontman Michael Gira’s vocals, which are at their most manic here, ranging from caveman-esque grunts on the bridge to a nasally call progressing into the second verse – “HEY THEEEEERRE.” It’s all just so cathartic; as a listener, you get release just from hearing these guys belt this thing out. It’s a sort of vicarious thrill that Swans has pretty consistently provided over the course of its now three-decade-long career.

And there’s also something to be said of the excitement this song manages to inspire despite the fact it has been kicking around for years in a number of iterations, in Gira’s solo acoustic sets, and then the live version that appeared on the limited edition live album Not Here/Not Now late last year. The band’s promotional/funding approach for these last few releases has been quite genius, as it has allowed the band to give glimpses of new content as they develop it – tiding us over, but allowing for plenty of surprises on the finished product. For instance, the glorious addition of brass here!

To Be Kind drops May 12 via Young God and Mute. A gentle reminder we loved their last one.

Silver Mt. Zion – “Birds Toss Precious Flowers”

Having dropped the art rock wonder Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything earlier this year, Thee Silver Mt. Zion is readying a new “remix” EP that will be released just later this month. It is called Hang on to Each Other and features two lengthy revamps of the song of the same name from the collective’s 2005 effort Horses in the Sky.

Now, I’m wondering if fellow post-rock act Mogwai stole the name Rave Tapes from them, as judging from the EP’s B-side, “Birds Toss Precious Flowers,” that would be a fitting name for this project. This song is a headlong foray into electronic dance music…and the guys and gals at Thee Silver Mt. Zion actually pull it off. While it doesn’t remotely resemble the mostly acapella track it purports to have used as a “launching point,” the track is a true-blue house odyssey that remains captivating for its full 12 minutes. I can’t say I was expecting this from the band, but hell, I think now I’d like to them go totally electronic for a release in the future.

From the band: “It’s like that famous quote that Emma Goldman never said = “DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION”!”

Hang on to Each Other is due out April 29 via Constellation. A gentle reminder the band’s latest full-length is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_UR-FF5h2I

Swans – “A Little God in My Hands”

At long last we have the first single from Swans’ upcoming double album To Be Kind! “A Little God in My Hands” is quite the change of pace coming off thoroughly heavy efforts like The Seer and the limited edition live CD Not Here/Not Now (which contains a few early iterations of tracks to land on Kind). The track has that post-industrial strut not unfamiliar to fans of the band – such a beefy, beefy bass line! – but it’s strangely funky, even suggesting a bit of a krautrock influence. The uncharacteristically twangy guitar flicks call Neu!’s “Hallogallo” to my mind, and the trudge is also accented by these light synth splutters that are a welcome addition to Swans’ ever-growing compositional palette.

The sauntering stomp of the song’s verses gives way to eruptions of blaring horns (more likely Thor’s clarinet), piercing electronics, and revved guitars – the sort of crushing climaxes you expect from Swans, but the band has done well to keep things fresh.

Frontman Michael Gira has promised that although even longer than The Seer, To Be Kind will be “more vocal-oriented” than its predecessor. Gira opts to wail his lyrics throughout “A Little God in My Hands” in a nasally, although not at all off-putting sort of way. But judging from the Kind songs the band had been developing live on their last tour, there is going to be a great deal of variety across the LP on this front – ranging from soft, weathered crooning (the title track) to throat-searing howling (“She Loves Us!”). Moreover, during the second verse here, we get a vocal cadence from presumably Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and it is absolutely lovely. I am excited to hear where and how else her voice has been utilized over the course of the record.

To Be Kind drops via Young God on May 12 (or, a date that’s too damn far away)!

Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Mogwai’s latest album sees the famed (mostly) instrumental rock band incorporating a lot more synths and electronics with some mixed results.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

Thee Silver Mount Zion’s latest record is the Montreal band’s heaviest and noisiest yet, It’s not just a mess of abrasive sounds, though. There’s plenty of fantastic string arrangements and moving lyrics to be had on these tracks, too.

Have a Nice Life – “Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate”

This new track from Connecticut experimental rock duo Have a Nice Life is epic, but in the sort of abject way you might expect from the outfit after their monumental, crushing 2008 LP Deathconsciousness. As the title of the song might suggest, frontmen Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga are reunited and neither of them is skipping a beat. The first half of the song is a gloomy dirge of whirring guitar and industrial electronics that backdrops the duo’s purposefully distant, echoing vocals and that gives way to a protracted coda of yet more industrial textures.

For the evocative vocals and for managing to come across as a sort of self-contained story, “Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate” has me brimming with excitement for the twosome’s upcoming sophomore LP The Unnatural World, due out February 4 via The Flenser. For the time being, it is available to stream in full here via Pitchfork Advance.

Mogwai – “The Lord Is Out of Control”

As I’ve said, famed experimental rock outfit Mogwai is going to be dropping a new full-length album early next year via Sub Pop records.

The band has recently dropped another track from this forthcoming LP via the music video embedded above. Enjoy!

Mogwai – “Remurdered”

Famed post-rock outfit Mogwai has been undergoing some pretty big changes on their last few albums, and it’s lead to some hits and some misses. However, I’ve never known a band like Mogwai to fold under the pressure of critical reception, and the band’s next album could make for a pretty controversial move for them considering how surprising this first track to drop from it is. “Remurdered” takes the same slow-burning approach one would expect from a Mogwai song, but the band’s sound here is heavily reliant on synths! It’s a pretty big change from the usual layers of guitars that tend to lead the way, but I’m not really finding this track any less interesting from a compositional standpoint, honestly.

This track comes from Mogwai’s forthcoming album on Sub Pop Records titled Rave Tapes. The album is looking at a January 21st release! Enjoy!

Sigur Rós – “Hrafntinna”

For the fourth episode of their “Empty Space” series, La Blogothèque and Converse invited  Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós to perform a song in a cave “somewhere under Paris.” The trio was accompanied by a string, brass, and percussion ensemble and performed the soaring Kveikur cut “Hrafntinna.” The cave’s acoustics make the piece sound even more enormous and breathtaking. Enjoy!

Kveikur is out now via XL Recordings. Watch our quick review of it here:

Locrian – “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light”

Chicago experimental rock outfit Locrian drops another set of eerie visuals on a track from their new album, Return to Annihilation. The LP is out now via Relapse records, and you can check a review for the album below: