EARLY WORD: This Awful Bliss


Swans have always straddled the chasm between the immanent and the transcendent. Love, life, sex, death, and decay are inevitably very physical realities, but their thematic representation in the Swans’ oevure invariably evokes the otherworldly. The sonic delivery vehicle for these invocations is a relentless, elemental repetition evoking an expansive state of being. Swans prime mover Michael Gira is a fiercely uncompromising artist whose vocal delivery unleashes a bestial but yearning soul howling fearlessly into the void. In contrast to the exultant hymns of Gira’s previous work, the brand new and highly acclaimed The Seer plumbs mournful depths, evolving the pummeling horror of their early material into a crushing beauty.¬† Gira insists this new sound¬† is inspired by joy, but it strikes me as voices raised in ecstatic terror unto a decidedly wrathful lord. Any group trafficking in massive heaviness and epic scale these days owe Swans a heavy debt: Neurosis, Boris, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to name a few. The hypnotic rhythms they’ve woven over their long career bespeak an endless journey and the fact that Gira re-actiavted the Swans after a 15-year hiatus would indicate he is in for the long haul. What does all this sound like? Apocalyptic? Beatific? Best decide for yourself tomorrow night: Swans’ live performance is one of the greatest testaments to the power of sonic possibility accessible to mortal ears. — BRIAN MURRAY