Yellow Swans
Going Places


4.5
superb

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
December 29th, 2010 | 57 replies | 7,982 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The glorious, sentient, unbalanced soundtrack to the real end of days.

With Going Places, their final album, Yellow Swans present a curious conundrum. The Portland duo are ostensibly a noise band, but the word "noise" implies aggression, which this album notably lacks. You could venture that they create ambient music, but this stuff is too immediate and arresting to simply be part of the surrounding atmosphere. One could argue that the way these songs build to enormous climaxes is similar to the post-rock tradition, but the traditional harmonic structures that define that genre are conspicuously absent here. So what do we call this? How to adequately describe this music that reminds us of everything by sounding like nothing else? At this point, it's virtually impossible; throughout their career, Yellow Swans have consistently explored the inherent paradoxes of noise as music and music as art, and Going Places is no exception.

And that album title...what does it really mean? It's obviously a cheeky rejection of the usual sentimental farewell, but when you go beyond that, there's a feeling of unease. What places are Yellow Swans going to, exactly? The six tracks on this album remind me of abandoned spaces, of total emptiness. I've already picked out Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport as my soundtrack to the impending apocalypse, but whereas that album would ideally accompany an epic exit of humanity, Going Places is probably a more accurate portrayal of how everything will end. This is the "New Life" that we will be pursuing in the future, isn't it? It's uncomfortable, the way these songs so perfectly evoke desolation without destruction, the marked lack of catharsis. "Opt Out" and "Limited Space" have huge crescendoes, yet their peaks feel doubtful - cautious, even. There's no release, no Petrarchan sestet answering the octave, no conveniently tidy conclusion.

The key to this effect lies in the way Yellow Swans craft such cavernous sonic spaces from small gestures. In the aforementioned "Opt Out", an acoustic guitar is layered upon itself again and again, slowly becoming more distorted and building up to a howling climax; think the bowed guitar of Sigur Rós's "Flugufrelsarinn" amplified tenfold and you'd be on the right track. But the sound's inherent intimacy acts against the track's large-scale growth, creating a palpable tension that is ultimately left unresolved. It's the opposite of Monet, muddled noise from a distance, distinguishable and intangible beauty up close. That question posed by the best Expressionist art - what really sets beauty apart from ugliness? - is asked here. Think about it: if somebody finds Going Places aesthetically unpleasant, how can they be objectively proven wrong? The answer, of course, is that they can't and shouldn't be; this album's rough textures are just as essential to its success as its more melodious tendencies.

The Cageian philosophy of ambient noise being musically valid has been fundamentally misunderstood by generations of musicians, scholars, and listeners; what distinguishes Pollock's "One" from random paint splattering or 4'33" from traffic noise isn't the end result so much as it is the intent, the purpose. Going Places isn't nearly as intentionally accidental as those notorious works, but who's to say that Pete Swanson and Gabriel Saloman didn't discover that the squeaking door that opens the album's haunting title track sounded eerily melodic by chance? Or that the gorgeous heaving sighs of "Sovereign" and album opener "Foiled" wasn't borne out of reckless experimentation? In the same way that William Basinski allowed the natural process of decomposition to become an instrument itself in The Disintegration Loops, Yellow Swans allow their music to be, in a strange and inexplicable way, sentient. Which is why Going Places outshines the glow cast upon it by its creators' long-gestating split; in its glorious and uneasy beauty, it simply exists.



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user ratings (41)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh god oh god oh god

so overwrought

Tyrael
December 29th 2010



20797 Comments


Philosophy.

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This was fun to write but now it's torturous to read, ffffuuuuuuu

But this album is so good

TheSpirit
December 29th 2010



17626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah this is an amazing album. Have you heard Being There?

Digging: Venus Star - Nigredo Expulsion

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The bonus disc? No, I haven't. Is it just as good?

TheSpirit
December 29th 2010



17626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I think it is for sure.

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sweet, will definitely have to get my hands on that.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
December 29th 2010



15000 Comments


great album

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol Robertson your soundoff is golden

Xenophanes
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



10592 Comments


I know I said this in your other review thread yesterday, but you are great. Really, I never care to check out the stuff you review, but I go out of my way to read your writing. Keep it up man.

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks a lot, Xeno.

Although I would, of course, always recommend that you check the stuff I review out! ; )

Gyromania
December 29th 2010



15460 Comments


Conrad =]

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

MATT

WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN


Xenophanes
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



10592 Comments


Ill give this a go, it sounds pretty cool actually...

Xenophanes
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



10592 Comments


Yeah no shit, you aren't even on aim anymore man!

Gyromania
December 29th 2010



15460 Comments


MATT

WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN


Lol, just finishing up my seasonal job, which means I'll be spending a lot of time on sputnik now! I want that contributing reviewer title, and mark my words I WILL get it :P Although you will definitely make it there before me if you keep this up.

Anyways, I enjoyed reading this review (I realize that there's another two that I've yet to read, but I'll get there). Major pos.

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Meet anybody else who wanted Black Eyed Peas' shit album for Christmas? :P thanks for the pos, man

Gyromania
December 29th 2010



15460 Comments


Nah, but I met someone who believes that Soulja Boy is 'one of the mos dope rap artists of the time'.

conradtao
Emeritus
December 29th 2010



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this right here is my pretty boy sw-- CRAP

couldwinarabbit
December 29th 2010



6996 Comments


I agree with you so much. This album is amazing.



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