Review Summary: I am not this
To be quite honest, it was difficult to figure out Leaving Meaning.
Despite being a new release under the Swans canon, yet having more in common with Michael Gira's previous group The Angels of Light, this record wasn't necessarily as cryptic as previous Swans releases, nor was it as overly long, repetitive or so heavily fixated on a single riff to drive a song along. Instead, we were met with ornate, ethereal, dare I say, transcendent
music. Heavily flawed, but transcendent. I admire ambition, and Gira, well known for his ambitious music, is one of the leading figures in rock music today when it comes to pushing the envelope, even if there are some who are more than eager to reject this notion or hesitate to acknowledge it. For the past decade, Swans have done exactly that - push the envelope, reaching the very limits of what does and does not work in a song, exhausting a singular motif to the utmost degree; but as heard on Leaving Meaning.
, the first of this new era, this has all been cast away for the most part, returning to more concise (by their current standards) and gentle songwriting and composition. However, with what has come to fruition on their latest offering, an effort rife with songs that ebb and flow, unwind, and are left with room to breathe, it is brought down significantly by refusing to change things up and
make it intriguing as well. This is evident even with a stellar track like "It's Coming It's Real" enticing people with its gothic mystique in the lead-up to Leaving Meaning.'s
There was an admirable attempt in the absurd no wave throwback finale "My Phantom Limb" and the much-hyped "Sunfucker," but it simply isn't enough to shake the feeling that you've heard some of these songs before. Whether it be due to fact that many of these songs are far too similar to one another or ultimately just don't make significant enough progress to merit such a drawn-out listen, Leaving Meaning.
doesn't exactly fail to get to the point. For a matter of fact, it gets to it far faster than any other Swans album since 2010's My Father
, but in doing so, it fails to come across as a necessarily important album. In reality, it's a transitional record, one that only teases at the possibilities that lie in wait for the band and its fans in the coming decade, whether it means to continue in this direction, or if it results in something wildly different a few years down the line. In spite of my own misgivings towards Leaving Meaning.
, it is an admirable effort that doesn't tell us much about what the future has in store, but to make people aware that Swans aren't quite dead...yet.