Arising from the cracks of the New York City postpunk scene in the early 1980s, Swans' music is a genre unto itself. An otherworldly sonic disturbance, their sound is aggression turned musical. Not obnoxious noise but fearsome magnificence.
The band's clever turns take you from cacophony to gorgeous compositions. Luscious melodies and soaring moments of bliss are juxtaposed with the din. The effect is potent, both dark and beautiful.
Swans founder Michael Gira spoke to us from his New York home at the edge of the Catskills. He ruminated on how a musical project he thought he had buried 13 years ago somehow rose again from the grave. Gira is known for his ponderous baritone, the perfect vessel for lyrics like: "And I am the Sun/I rise above the world/And when the light goes out/I kill another child." This summer morning, though, the 58-year-old's voice is bright and eager to talk about The Seer, Swans' new, epic, two-hour masterpiece.
"The mood is contained in the music," explains Gira. "It's discovered along the way. I don't set out or try to illustrate some sort of ideas or teach anybody anything. I don't bring some sort of message other than what develops inside the music. It just feels great." He pauses to let out a laugh. "It feels great to play, and I hope the audience feels ecstasy when we play."