REVIEW: Swans leaving meaning



Since forming in 1982, Swans has pushed the boundaries of rock over the course of 14 albums spanning the dystopian ear-fuck continuum from ambient industrial sludge to sprawling post-rock fever dreams. Their 15th album, leaving meaning, continues to explore the dark, forbidden places along that continuum. “Annaline” follows the gloriously clangorous introductory track “Hums,” alchemizing its drifting formlessness with swelling tonal clusters of multi-tracked piano, violin and guitar feedback whereupon Swans mastermind Michael Gira sings “Oh, the Buddha was right, and Saint John of the Cross: a word is a thought, and a thought is a box.”  “What is This?” starts off as a foot-tapping indie rock song with David Gilmour-esque guitars, sloshing sleigh bells and vocal chants, before morphing into a celestial trance. “The Hanging Man,” is an eleven-minute long aggressive and foreboding Kraut-rock groove over which Gira sings “I am the hanging man/I hang, I never land/I steal the space between/ The filthy and the clean,” which, when the time comes, will serve as a fitting epitaph for Gira’s work with the Swans. The clear highlight of the album is “Sunfucker.” It starts with a reverb-heavy acoustic rhythm accompanied by a thick background drone further mutated by deep layers of vocals and effects. The second half of the song is marked by a pounding, energetic groove with loud drums, and clustered, shrieking guitars, that eventually peaks with oracular, chanting praise to Sunfucker. All told, this is peak Swans. My only real complaint is the jarring song sequence and I just can’t wrap my head around why some songs end so abruptly, especially to finish off the album. Still, these are minor complaints about what is otherwise the start of another extraordinary run for the new iteration of the Swans. — PEYTON MITZEL