The Body Lovers / The Body Haters | Review
explores the knife-sharp, chasm-deep line between love and hate, pain and bliss
Although his methods have changed dramatically since his earliest days with the Swans, Michael Gira has remained very consistently on message. In the early 1980's, with Teutonic furiousness, he sought to hammer into listeners' skulls the impossibility of safe binaries. Records like Cop and Holy Money sketch Hegel's Master-Slave Dialectic with jackhammer bursts of bass and rolling thunderclaps of guitar noise, taunting complacent assumptions about sex, power, and sound out into the open before eviscerating them.
The Body Lovers / The Body Haters, composed and recorded by Gira in the year following the Swans' demise, is much more sonically aligned with late-period Swans, notably Soundtracks for the Blind. A murky, mutating, double-album blend of tape fragments, electronic tones, chiming acoustic strings, and incidental sounds, the sprawling composition is a far throw from the sludge-and-sledgehammer attack of the early 1980's. Everything and the Hell's Kitchen sink is strung through this opus, which features contributions from Jarboe, Pan Sonic, Deathprod (an obvious disciple), and others. Like so much of Gira's work, The Body Lovers / The Body Haters explores the knife-sharp, chasm-deep line between love and hate, pain and bliss. Ominous rumblings of guitar distortion peel away to admit feverish pinwheels of transmitter beeps or hushed, angelic folk figures as gossamer as anything from the Angels of Light records. The disparate moods are loosely separated by the sides of the double album (Lovers/Haters) but they bleed through that permeable divide, clawing at descriptive boundaries and resisting reconciliation. If Gira's Swans could hold hands with his Angels of Light, this would be the spot where the skin touches, caresses, and rubs raw.