I was a mild fan of the Swans in college ( I loved Children of God) and then post-college, my friend Lar got me obsessed with finding their obscure releases (turns out I have a bunch of LPs that are “valuable.” Who knew?) Anyhow, after they broke up I lost touch with Michael Gira’s projects (although Lar got me a cool autograph when Gira last played Dublin).
But Swans are back as heard on NPR. (NPR? Yes, NPR). They have a new album out, but I’ve only heard this track so far.
Swans are loud and abrasive. Their early stuff is slow and ponderous, nearly glacial–some of the darkest music going that’s not speed metal. But after a ten plus year hiatus, and all kinds of new musical advancements what will Swans sound like?
“My Birth” is still a bruising song. It’s loud and heavy but still slow-paced (although much faster than their early stuff). The drums and bass are loud. Gira’s vocals are much faster than his almost comically slow deep voice, and now he’s sort of yelling from a distance.
The big difference is that the song sounds contemporary. Even though it is very Swans-y, it sounds like it has tricks from the last decade (no, not autotune), just a solid juxtaposition of instruments and a very cool/creepy electronic sounding tinkling that runs through the background of the chorus (is it a chorus?).
It sounds more commercial than things they’ve done and yet in no way is it a commercial song. It abuses the listener and we are thankful for it. Welcome back, then.
[READ: September 26, 2010] “The Matter with Morris”
This was one of the longer pieces of fiction I’ve seen in The Walrus. And it was very satisfying.
As the story begins, we learn that Morris is a columnist and that he writes a weekly piece which is taken primarily from his life. His family hasn’t been all that pleased about what he writes, but he does his best at hiding the details. (He initially used material from his wife’s analysis business, but he found raiding his own family life to be more satisfying).
And then his life encounters a real tragedy. He can’t process the problem, and it shows up in his column. Instead of being quaintly funny, it becomes existentially intense. Instead of being in first person, it becomes second person (and makes the readers uncomfortable).
This shift also indicates a shift in his life. His wife is concerned about him, but also apparently blames him for the crisis. So what is a man to do when he receives a fan letter from a woman who has experienced the same crisis? He writes her back and feels solace and comfort in someone who understands him.
I found this really moving. And for what started out as a kind of funny piece, I was surprised at how emotional it ended up. And it’s funny to say but what I really appreciated about this piece was that it had a definitive conclusion. As the story draws to a close, I was worried we would have one of those nebulous conclusions, but we don’t. We don’t know what the future will hold, but at least we know which direction it will go.
I looked back at the previous stories by Bergen that I has read and I see that I haven’t really liked his work that much. I’m glad to see that I enjoyed this one a lot more.