Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky LP
Label: Young God
Michael Gira has made his point that Swans has been reactivated, and that this is not a reunion. The distinction may be important to Gira, but it's pretty clear that he doesn't want the world to think he's jumping on the bandwagon of every cool band from the '80s and '90s getting back together again. But the fact remains that Swans dissolved back in 1997, and Gira took some of the Swans musicians at that time to form his grizzled folk ensemble Angels Of Light. Given the acoustic songs that Gira would sometimes wrangle as a counterpoint to Swans' signature brutality, the transition for Gira from Swans into Angels was a logical one. Over time, Angels developed into a lush ensemble with twinkling psychedelic aspects of a bright baroque aesthetic never revealed in the harrowing, abject tracks from Swans.
In early 2009, Gira embarked on a solo tour, showcasing a bunch of new material that seemed to be harkening back to the sound and fury of Swans, in spite of their minimalist presentation through just acoustic guitar and voice. On more than one occasion Gira quipped that he was thinking of making another Swans record. And that brings us to My Father Will Guide Me, ushered forth by a squadron of atonal guitars and lumbering percussive crashes. The album really does sound like it could have been produced in 1999, right after Soundtracks For The Blind, which was thought to be the final studio record for Swans. Sure, there's no Jarboe (for the obvious reasons that they part ways in their personal relationship), but Gira did recruit guitarist Norman Westberg to return to the fold. He was responsible for the guitar sound for the band from Filth up through White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. That buzzsaw rasp which Westberg produced is very present in Swans resurrection, cutting through the thug-fist basslines and lockstep drum rolls. The sound of Swans is very much intact, but Gira's songwriting has constantly grown, with his booming voice still wailing doom and gloom through the lens of an American apocalypticist. Devendra Banhart also makes a guest appearance on a track equally noted for its discordantly brash trombones and trumpets with their resembles to dive-bombing arcs. If only every band that got back together could make a record with this much intensity, drama and power.