Swans : My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
It’s very rare that you listen to an album and believe that it might well be a masterpiece. There’s no shortage of great albums around, but the long awaited Swans album deserves more than passing congratulations.
It’s been 14 years since Michael Gira and his band of artful gentlemen last put out a record; under this name anyway. Indeed, after such a long absence guesswork starts to creep in as to just what a Swans release will sound like, despite Gira continuing to write, perform and release music in the meantime. The Swans leading up to 1996, as many will remember, achieved a formidable back-catalogue, replete with post-punk traits – experimental multi-instrumentation, complex sonic layers, at times noisy, usually moody.
Funded by the proceeds of 1000 handmade and pre-ordered copies of a release called I Am Not Insane, the eight-song My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky brings together many Swans idiosyncrasies. It opens with chiming bells – a mellow start to the nine minute and 23 second No Words / No Thoughts that soon crashes into a repetitive, single chord wall of sound. Warbling synthesiser and guitar layers are joined by what sounds like a bench saw chewing through planks of wood. They fade away to make room for another simple rhythm, two tone, and Gira’s entrancing vocals: “See that man – ego (inner man – hollow).
Soul of man – fallow (hollow man – ego. See that man – zero (zero man – hallow).” The haunting circularity escapes via a dense, noisy, frenetic break, before returning to a sparse and, once again, crescendo-ing rhythm, one less claustrophobic than simply apocalyptic. Turned up loud, you become absorbed into a vast dynamic range. Nine minutes is nothing when you’re lost in Gira’s wilderness.
Reeling The Liars In takes things back a notch with its acoustic simplicity and humming vocal accompaniment.
The gentle setting belies the subject matter – a gradually deconstructed body of deceit: “We are reeling the liars in. We are removing their face, collecting their skin, we are reeling the liars in. We are burning them in a pile... The only true thing, the place to begin, is to burn up the liar pile.”
Jim is an intoxicating waltz, again very simple, again building to a cacophonic climax, before dissipating into nothing. My Birth and the experimental, atonal You Fucking People Make Me Sick, with its trumpets and soaring aeroplane sounds lead us Inside Madeline, “The engine divine is inside Madeline.” Its fine line runs between intimacy and possession, death and emergence. The hallowed dumping ground in Eden Prison sets up the conflict of memory, history, decay, and burden that Little Mouth explores in more detail.
The thunderous collapse of the former contrasts the minimalism of the latter – a contemplation of the sublime where made of flesh and stone. “May I carry your burden, may I follow you blind. May I burn your picture onto the face of my mind.” Energetic, esoteric and as lucid as ever, Swans are back. Make no mistake of that.
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky is out now through Young God Records