Swans, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
After 14 years, advancing his southern Gothic scruff into new worlds of dissonance and doom
For his first LP under the Swans banner in 14 years, frontman Michael Gira has allowed his sludgy, distortion-fucked past to make amends with his brooding, snake-bitten present. From the first Swans EP in 1982 on through 2007's album with Angels of Light, you can trace how Gira's unique bursts of misanthropy have slowly matured from ultraviolent, ultra-abrasive Anthony Burgess bloodletting to a desolate Cormac McCarthy gloom. My Father… uses a hodgepodge of musicians from various Swans lineups (including longtime guitar torturer Norman Westberg) to play both sides, advancing his more recent dalliances in southern Gothic scruff into new worlds of dissonance and doom. His dust-kicking swirls now have wailing strings, laying alongside dead-eyed thuds, creaking noises, haunting gurgles and the creepiest jaw harp solo put to tape. By adding a more rock-centric base, the bleak Angels of Light twang-doom of "Reeling in the Liars" and the manic mandolins of the feedback-drenched "Jim" now play like a bloodthirsty Leonard Cohen skinning cats in his barn. Even more excruciating tracks like "My Birth" sound like a deranged cousin to Nick Cave's Grinderman, bringing Gira's sex/religion/death obsessions to the brink of the apocalypse. But it's tracks like opener "No Words/No Thoughts" that should easily please anyone excited about the un-retiring of the Swans name, turning church bells into slurry where heavy metal meets 4AD, tromping with industrial robo-elephants, and exploring all the chiming crescendos that Godspeed You! Black Emperor so kindly borrowed.