• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Swans To Reform? Michael Gira Live at the Oxfam Café

Seemingly out of the blue, Michael Gira came to Tufts University on April 26th and played for a group of about 50 people. The show had been announced just days before he was to perform, but this did not stop him from playing a set composed of new songs, as well as some familiar material from both Swans and Angels of Light. I took some notes from the performance and had the chance to talk with him both before and after the show. Somewhere along the line he managed to utter the words "Swans" and "tour" in the same sentence.


(Photographs courtesy of Doug Roark.)

Even without screeching guitars and pounding drums pouring out from behind him, Michael Gira is an imposing figure. By himself, he produces a wall of sound that is every bit as powerful as the music produced under the name Swans or Angels of Light. As one attendee remarked after the show, it was obvious that Gira didn't sing as loudly as he did because Swans was a loud band, the band had to be as loud and as heavy as they were in order to be heard over Gira's voice. Playing the guitar more like a drum than a stringed instrument, Gira performed a set of 12 songs, half of which were brand new. Most of these were unrecorded songs that might've been played at other venues, but two of them, "Oxygen" and "Eden Prison," were live debuts never before performed. Included among the new songs were renditions of "Promise of Water," "Nations," and "My Brother's Man" as well as "Destroyer," "Goddamn the Sun," and "Failure." It became obvious to me after awhile that Gira was at his best when he was performing his less rhythmically aggressive songs. "Promise of Water" was loud enough to warrant ear plugs and it was exciting to hear Gira compulsively uttering woops and hollers as he beat on his guitar, but songs like "Nations" and "My Brother's Man" were just a little too uniform. "Destroyer" and "Goddamn the Sun," on the other hand, were majestic. Gira's voice managed to be both tender and caustic during each of these songs and their simple melodies translated well to the solo environment. When the opening chords of "Failure" began, a tangible excitement could be felt in the small crowd. Gira has unceasingly produced heavy and dense music, but his best songs on this night were the more subtle and brooding ones.

The new songs were, however, the highlights for me. "Little Mouth" opened the set with a simple guitar melody that repeated itself over and over again; Gira's voice provided all the variation the song needed. It was filled with a dark and sarcastic tone that reminded me of some of the songs from We Are Him. With just a guitar to accompany him, Michael made it almost completely meditative. "Opium Song" continued the set and was much heavier and faster. Gira bashed the strings on his guitar quickly, forming a stacatto eighth-note rhythm that relented only for the sake of the chorus. "Oxygen," which Gira introduced as a song "about breathing," was wholly mantric and repetitive. Slowly working up to the chorus, Gira strummed the same chord only to relieve the tension with a vocal gasp and the line, "I will not open these lips." "Eden Prison," which he said was written just two days prior to the show, sounded completely different from the rest of the set. Gira's style of playing changed somewhat, recalling Jason Molina's low, resonant style in Songs: Ohia. Small melodic variations swelled and retreated for the duration of the song, with abrupt bouts of dissonance erupting from the low end of his guitar. Gira was playing hard enough that the two lower strings on the guitar shook the windows and light fixtures in the room. "Reeling the Liars In" and "Inside Madeline" were the two new songs that impressed me the most. The first was a lyrically brutal song that featured virtually no accompaniment. As I remember it, Gira only plucked the guitar here and there, pulling mostly low end hums out of the strings. During one part of the song, Gira sang, "The only true thing, the place to begin, is to burn up the liar pile." There was a satisfying bitterness in his voice complimented by a narrative tone. It reminded me of a hybrid Swans/Angels of Light song. "Inside Madeline" began with a pseudo-romantic chord progression that called to mind classical guitar pieces like "Malagueña." It quickly changed as Gira sang, "The engine divine, is inside Madeline." This was by far the most melodic of the songs played that night. It wasn't hard to imagine it being supplemented by cavernous percussion and a thumping bass. I could just imagine the Angels of Light behind him, complimenting his heavy delivery.

After the show, Gira stuck around for awhile and talked to fans. At some point, Brainwashed's Jon Whitney asked him where he saw all of these songs going. It seemed obvious to most everyone that they were going to turn up on the next Angels of Light record. I was a little surprised to hear Gira's response: these songs reminded him more of Swans than Angels of Light. He said that it might be possible these songs would turn up on another Swans record. When I finally got the chance to ask him about this myself, he said that he didn't want to get into it too much, but that he was definitely thinking of Swans again. Perhaps, he said, there would one day be an Angels of Light and Swans tour. And with that tantalizing bit of information, he said bye to everyone and got back into his car.


The Eye: Video of the Day

Nurse With Wound

YouTube Video

read more >>>

Review of the Day

SUNN O))), "WHITE 2"
Southern Lord
Masters of the stomach-churning, intestine-voiding, subharmonic frequencies, Steven O'Malley and Greg Anderson return for a sequel to last year's impressive White 1, not surprisingly entitled White 2. Much has been made of Anderson and O'Malley's transmogrification and mutation of their Nordic black metal influences into the slow-motion, doom-laden minimalism of their recordings as Sunn O))). Never mind that it isn't a very original idea, having previously been put forth by Seattle ambient sludge-core band Earth. Listen to the track "Ripped on Fascist Ideas" from Earth's live album Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars for the origin of Sunn O)))'s sonic palette. To their credit, however, Sunn O))) have relentlessly pursued this aesthetic, going several steps further with their use of variable-speed tape mutations and other synthetic technology to create the lowest low-end feasible, with the possible exception of that lowrider that cruises through my neighborhood in the middle of the night blasting bone-rattling Miami bass. On White 2, they choose not to repeat the guest-vocalist tactics of the first White album, in favor of creating three lengthy, horror movie soundscapes that willfully test the limits of the stereo playback system, even as they revel in fascinatingly tangible textures. Although they approach their compositions from a completely different perspective, Sunn O))) arrive in the same general "dark ambient" territory as Lustmord or Lull, spinning vaguely cinematic post-industrial abstractions in which mood is the primary attraction. The fourteen doom-laden minutes of "Hell-O)))-Ween" are the most prototypical of the band: a series of brutally plodding riffs that are allowed to reverberate, slowly building up compounding layers distortion and bass rumble like slowly coagulating amber dripping down a prehistoric tree. It's crushing and dowtrodden, but it's nothing compared to the next two epic tracks of desolation and fear. "bassAliens" explores the lonely, claustrophobic corners just out of sight on Ridley Scott's Nostromo, haunted by the faint specter of menace, distorted subharmonic rumbles that sputter and mutate, spewing foul plumes of hydrochloric acid. What's remarkable about this track is the effective usage of higher-frequency tones and midrange atmospheric guitar plonks, which, juxtaposed with the jarring bass rumbles, create a vivid sound environment unmatched on Sunn O)))'s previous records. The album concludes with the 25-minute epic "Decay 2 (Nihil's Maw)," where Anderson and O'Malley are joined by legendary Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar for a frightening peak into the void. Listening to this track on an expensive pair of headphones is like staring into the empty, yawning chasm of oblivion, a screaming hole that sucks up sound and life itself. Dislocated from any recognizable sound source other than Csihar's multi-layered growls, shrieks and Odinic chants, a listener has no choice but to float towards the soul-shredding epicenter of the black hole, where ancient demonic forces gather and align to prepare for the final descent to zero. 


read more >>>

Login Form




Donate towards our web hosting bill!
		at the iTunes store