Swans: My Father Will Guide me up by a Rope to the Sky
The unexpected arrival of the new album from Michael Gira and Swans aligns with a revelation I had recently, a realization that it is the music which speaks loudest to me speaks of the raw humanity of 'us', but even more so the ability for us to create artworks transcending humanity and yet speaking loudly of it.
Swans are one such beast, and My Father Will Guide Me Up By A Rope To The Sky is the epitome of this sentiment. Swans create a sonic experience which resonates on a number of important levels; this is best exampled through the opening track No Words/No Thoughts, certainly one of the most amazing pieces of music of 2010. Knowing that Swans are but men, one has to consider that No Words/No Thoughts sounds as though it is actually not man-made. The other burning feeling is that Swans, no doubt by design, sound like the Armageddon. The beautiful and scarred sound of chiming guitars, the mechanics of rhythms and the symphonic accents and tones scorch the air. The intensity is powerful but in the case of Swans, not alienating.
No Words/No Thoughts engages you into a vortex that you want to linger in, but then Reeling The Liars In and Jim find Swans bandleader Gira all vocal, and the tone changes. Gira's rusty poetry is a triumph, and on My Father Will Guide Me Up By A Rope To The Sky his words are striking and acidic. On Jim he motions, "let's piss on the city that's burning down there" and this speaks volumes of his distain.
But like all rational thinkers, Gira is working with a realist bent, and not caught in cynicism, and this aligns him to contemporaries like Nick Cave and Scott Walker. In equal measure, the composition of Swans recalls the headiness of The Bad Seeds or The Birthday Party, and the incredulous depth of Walker's recent The Drift as a collection of deft and defiant pieces.
The turbulent headwind dies when Devendra Banhart appears on You Fucking People Make Me Sick, but his contribution segues into a collected maelstrom of rhythm and sound. There are frequent moments when Swans could easily be Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their blackened and most ferocious form, and Inside Madeline mirrors this comparison, being all menacing and militaristic, and guitars ravaged, slowly the track rolls into Gira's whisky-toned croon, and the presence he creates with his voice is gloriously personal.
A powerful and substantial album that should not be missed.