After years of pursuing Angels of Light and recording and producing a diverse roster of artists for his Young God label, Michael Gira reconvened his legendary group Swans for 2010's My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. As he puts it: "This is not a reunion. It's not some dumb-ass nostalgia act. It is not repeating the past. After five Angels of Light albums, I need a way to move forward, in a new direction, and it just so happens that revivifying the idea of Swans allows me to do that."
The highly anticipated release proved to be as powerful and diverse as anything Gira's ever done, in Swans or otherwise. It opens with the epic, soul-crushing "No Words/No Thoughts," but quickly veers to more pastoral terrain, and on to ever-ascending monotonal grooves. A filmic-folk idyll featuring Devendra Banhart on lead vocal abruptly shifts to cataclysm, and is followed by more airplane-taking-off ascensions, art songs and lethal sonic pummeling. In short, this is a significant advance from where Swans they left off and as challenging and emotionally demanding as ever.
Increasingly frustrated by the (self imposed) constraints he'd set for himself in Angels of Light, Gira decided that the direction he wanted his music to take would be more appropriate under the moniker of the group he started in 1982 and retired in 1997. Though the album retains an attention to detail in orchestration, and an underlying sense of melody on many of the songs, there's a deliberate shift towards sonic intensity, relentless, maniacal rhythms and alternately abrasive and soaring waves of electric guitar, qualities those familiar with the always-shifting sonic approach of Swans over its existence will recognize. This record immediately feels like Swans but is also obviously unique and moving into new territory.