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Swans, "We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head"

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cover imageOriginally released to raise money for recording the next Swans studio album, this live album has been repackaged and trimmed down for mass consumption. Capturing the group at one of its many peaks, it provides a thrilling document for those who paid witness or for those poor unfortunates who found themselves unable to attend any of the shows. A wide range of older classics, recent songs and new semi-improvised works make up the set list. If anyone still doubted the sincerity or legitimacy of the reformed Swans, this will silence all arguments.

Young God

Beginning with "No Words No Thoughts" from the mighty "comeback" album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, it is easy to hear how the already lengthy intro segment had elongated and mutated into a piece of its own. The album plays for about 15 minutes before "No Words No Thoughts" actually kicks in properly and already the mood is white hot. Swans have always been able to transport me and this is no exception as I am dropped back into that same head space as I was on the 22nd of October last year.

Slowing their pace, the group move through a stunning rendition of "Jim" (where Christoph Hahn’s slide guitar almost brings me to my knees) before unleashing a monster in the form of "Beautiful Child." The twin percussion of Phil Puleo and Thor Harris drive the song on with a ferocity that should be hard to match but the rest of the group follow them, matching them beat for beat and sweat and for sweat. Michael Gira’s voice sounds a bit rough here and throughout the album, undoubtedly due to the strain of giving it his all every night. However, while this should result in a flawed listening experience, it adds to the frantic feeling running through the performance. Other older songs get an airing but it is this and the "Sex God Sex" which stand out in terms of intensity.

This brings me to the new songs, the ones that I was most excited about hearing when these discs landed. All are embryonic jams here (Gira’s commentary on the demo recordings from the first edition suggest that much of the new material on the live album has been reworked or added to) but they show that the spark that ignited the new incarnation of Swans is far from extinguished. Two of the new pieces are tacked on to the beginning of older songs; "The Seer" explodes into "I Crawled," whereas the scorching riot of "93 Ave. B Blues" suddenly drops out into the tender "Little Mouth." Gira still knows how to confound expectations. Unfortunately, one of the new songs played on the tour, "Avatar," was left off the album (though it will be on the next studio album judging from what Gira has been saying).

The centerpiece of We Rose from Our Bed with the Sun in Our Head is "The Apostate," a stand-alone piece which is truly immense (it kept getting bigger and bigger as the tour went on and here it clocks in at just under 17 minutes). Starting like a bastard sibling of the B-side of Einstürzende Neubauten’s album Fuenf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala before nearly launching off into space, I am sorry that the Dublin gig was not at the end of the tour so I could have heard this in the flesh. As Gira ad libs the lyrics over an evolving and complex backing, it is hard not to stop what I am doing and stare dumbfounded at the stereo’s display. If the new album has even a quarter of this power, I will be ecstatic.

Since I received the first edition of this album some months ago, I have played the crap out of it. To me, it is up there with Swans Are Dead and Public Castration Is a Good Idea, forming a holy trinity of live albums (and to me, the definitive Swans sound). It is great to see this getting an airing beyond those who were lucky enough to be on the internet at the time of its original release. While the solo demo recordings for the new album have been left off this version, the meat is still here.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 20 May 2012 22:24  


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