Review Summary: The collateral consequence of the existence of the soul
There is some music that doesn’t need overbearing distortion to be heavy. Rather, its devastating power comes from someplace altogether darker than the engines of untameable noise. These sounds emanate from an unfathomable abyss; the aural manifestation of the darkest recesses of the human mind. Swans were nothing less than the immense gaping maw spewing pitch black winding rivers of emotive unconsciousness into our fragile world.
The astounding Sisyphean drone of songs such as Failure
is physically crushing despite often featuring nothing more than scattered guitar chords and the impossible melancholy of Gira’s mournful voice. When he openly states I saw my father crying/ I saw my mother break her hand/on a wall that wouldn’t weep
, its all you can do to not go to the nearest train station and hurl yourself under the flashing vacant eyes that propel lifeblood through the collapsing veins of dark cities.
The (barely) more positive Miracle of Love
illuminates the darkness with its burning rays as pounding drums and roaring synths scatter the dark clouds of thought, if only for a few moments; Jarboe then proceeds to envelop the music in an impenetrable mist, swallowing the sun as her venomous siren song weaves a sickly sweet wail over the dying rays of light.
Along with the colossal tides of Neurosis and Slint’s lonely masterpiece, Swans cast the most massive shadows over the alternative rock world. The crushing emotion that permeates White Light
exudes from the same furnace that radiated Souls at Zero
But whereas the four boys from Kentucky skulked in deserted quarries and Neurosis threw up thick walls of stormy oceanic sound, Swans were the spawn of New York; they lurked in shadow, part of the unfortunate humanity destined to wander forever lost in sprawling, polluted labyrinths. And yet somehow they managed to emerge and create music that was so utterly detached from the rest of world, so singular, that twenty years on there’s still nothing like it. Whilst the burning serpent at the heart of the band constantly writhed and mutated, it remained as infused with deadly passion and poison in its twilight years as it did when it first emerged slithering from the sickening stench of the bottomless pools of sound. White Light from the Mouth of Infinity
is the sound of the creature at the pinnacle of its powers; sinuous, deadly and utterly terrifying.