On Aug. 28, revived New York experimental band Swans—who formed in 1982 and broke up in 1997 before starting back up in 2010—released The Seer, their second studio album since beginning this new tenure. The record is a 2CD (or 3LP, if that’s how you roll) collection, nigh on two hours long, based around epic builds and extended progressions no less visceral for the fact that they also contain melody, contemplative stretches of minimalism or barbarous insistent rhythms. Led by guitarist/vocalist Michael Gira, Swans have come to defy genre even as they’ve helped define it. They are, quite simply, like nothing else.
Their prior outing, 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, followed a somewhat similar course to The Seer, but the newer work is more cohesive, more assured in its breadth, freer stylistically and concerned with joy as much as if not more than despair. To support the album, Swans have been on tour since Sept. 14, and next Wednesday, Oct. 10, they hit Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom.
I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Swans live since their reformation. Rather than bore you with the details of that encounter, I’ve assembled a list of five singular reasons you should see Swans this time through, which you can find below. I hope you’ll take them to heart.
1. Because of the intensity. Gira has assembled a cast for Swans that includes a host of instruments, percussion and vocals, and doubtless show-opener Devendra Banhart will add his voice to the bizarre chorus as well, but the real highlight is when all the elements fuse together in one apocalyptic sonic swell, like some tribe that never got “discovered.” Their bombast is not to be understated, but as overwhelming as the total effect can be, the players are never out of control.
2. Because of “The Apostate.” The first song the band wrote for the new album runs over 23 minutes long and in that stretch is a full-length in its own right, with a progressive course that swells to a massive apex and is rife with Swans’ own strange blend of malevolence and beauty. It is not to be missed.
3. Because I’m planning on doing a Neurosis cover at the end of this month for their new album, and it’ll make a lot more sense if you’ve seen Swans before. Well, I guess that one is kind of self-explanatory, but suffice it to say that among the many unique elements Swans has going for them is a way longer league of killer artists working under their influence than most anyone of the era in which their initial run took place.
4. Because if you don’t catch this show, you’ll only have two more chances to see them this month. Yeah, it’s true they’ll be back in town. If you’re in Philly or nearer there, they’ll be at Union Transfer Oct. 13, and they come back to NYC to hit Bowery Ballroom (yes, again) on Oct. 28 and Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Oct. 29, before flying out to play Reykjavik, Iceland, which is out of The Aquarian’s coverage area and thus totally irrelevant (sorry, Iceland).
5. Because they’re not done. The thing about it is, Swans aren’t a band to stay still long, either in terms of touring or creativity. Gira puts out his own albums, self-financed and self-released through his Young God Records imprint, so it’s not like they work necessarily on a regular album cycle, but more importantly, they’re never stylistically the same from one moment to the next, so missing Swans now means you’ll never quite get to see this same show. It’s not like they go out on tour every summer, trot out the greatest hits for the arena crowd and then disappear. This is a creative band, and they’re always pushing themselves, so they’re never quite in the same place twice.
Never in the same place twice, except, that is, for the Bowery Ballroom this month. If you get out to any of the shows, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.