Swans’ latest album takes a hypnotic, meditative approach to churning out some of the most grand and visceral rock instrumentation in the band’s 13-album discography.
Are you one of the admirable few who’s managed to abstain from listening to Swans‘ massive new album To Be Kind? Hang in there – there’s only a handful of days left to go! But maybe you’ve already worn out their other 12 records waiting and need a little something to keep you from cracking? Well, CHVRCHDVST Records is here for you, with this sprawling, 32-song-long tribute album to Swans by various underground acts ranging from drone to folk to post-punk in style. It’s like the length of two whole Swans records (or four early Swans records)! This really oughtta keep you occupied til Tuesday…But seriously, you should just give in and listen to the album already. No one’s gonna judge.
Also, Swans has begun uploading its back catalog to their YouTube channel. Check that shit out if you’ve been meaning to get into their music.
Montreal’s Ought displays a pretty wide set of influences on this debut record of theirs, including experimental folk rock to tracks that blend sounds of Midwest emo with the dismal emotions of bands like Slint.
“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.
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
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 brass, 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. [Sorry, I'm a dingus. All due credit to Jennifer Church, who did the lovely feature here, and who as it happens is Gira's fiance!]
To Be Kind drops via Young God on May 12 (or, a date that’s too damn far away)!
Mogwai’s latest album sees the famed (mostly) instrumental rock band incorporating a lot more synths and electronics with some mixed results.