Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Young God Records
Experimental/Atmospheric Rock
8 songs (44:25)
Release year: 2010
Swans, Young God Records
Reviewed by Goat

The second of two returning forgotten legends this week along with Killing Joke, Swans’ re-emergence into the light of day after thirteen years’ of quiet is more than welcome, despite the absence of Jarboe, female vocalist and melodic counterpart to Michael Gira’s ineffably male presence. Her solo career has been more than fascinating in its own right, yet I can’t help but wish the band had ‘reactivated’ as a whole instead of a part. Still, any fan of Swans or of Gira’s subsequent Angels Of Light project will be more than happy with My Father Will Guide... which in many ways mixes the sonic heaviness of the former and the American gothic-style blues of the latter into one mesmerising whole. The easiest way to describe the album as a whole is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds stripped of all commercialism and refashioned into a self-loathing burst of intensity, with wilfully deranged instrumentation forming a rhythmic clatter behind Gira’s weathered yet soulful voice. This does rather pigeonhole the band, however, and if there’s one way not to deal with Swans it’s to force them into a narrow interpretation of some pretentious reviewer.

What impresses me most about this album is the sheer skill and charisma which it wields like a weapon. The Angels Of Light influence is clear, Gira sounding like the world’s most kvlt singer-songwriter at times, yet it’s impossible to understate the sheer malevolence that lurks in some of the musical performances. Nine minute opener No Words/No Thought may begin with the sort of gentle sparkling that I mentally associate with the night-time sky, but a dark percussive heartbeat soon begins, militaristically channelling atmospheric guitar storm clouds that summon a very dark soundscape indeed. Things soon change as Gira half-sings, half-chants a mystical few lines before almost ethnic percussion and strings begin a brief yet cacophonic assault, distant bells and guitars getting louder beneath the drums in wonderful Larks’ Tongues In Aspic-y style before the storm breaks anew. It’s utterly hypnotic, the time shooting past before you notice, and by the time the final percussive blow falls you can’t help but be transfixed.

The album works hard to keep you on your toes. Reeling The Liars’ soft, almost hymnal style contrasts with the ominous lounge swing and strings of Jim, building up to sheer Industrial noise, and the distinctly grooving My Birth is something like country music stripped to the basics and rebuilt by a madman. The folky You Fucking People Make Me Sick has some rather creepy vocals from Devendra Banhart, echoed by Gira’s three-year-old daughter, before sliding into an atmospheric horror-soundtrack instrumental full of crashing pianos and howling trumpets. Inside Madeline is an instrumental repeat of the controlled King Crimson-style prog chaos of before, seamlessly sliding into a Jazzy Tom Waits-esque song, and then the high drama of Eden Prison kicks in. Starting with flourishes of an almost spaghetti western nature and ending with tumultuous thudding assaults of sound, it’s an absolute highlight on a great album. Even before the closing melancholy of Little Mouth, it’s clear that My Father Will Guide... is a deep and compelling album, themes and melodies emerging with repeated listens that weren’t immediately obvious on initial listens. It’s an album for music fans, people who enjoy falling very slowly into a piece of music and discovering it for themselves, and is proof positive that even bereft of their mother figure, Swans have much to offer yet.

Killing Songs :
No Words/No Thought, Jim, My Birth, You Fucking People Make Me Sick, Eden Prison
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Swans that we have reviewed:
Swans - Filth reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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