Edinburgh Swans Review
“To be kind….” Michael Gira gravely intones in a rich, sonorous singing voice not yet submerged beneath the metallic clangour of an average evening with Swans. “To be kind…..” He seems in a trance, clad in black with a curtain of dirty blond hair falling over his face, repeating these words over again as waves of sound rise and subside beneath him.
Gira’s reactivation of Swans three years ago was down to his desire, following several years as an alt-country artist with his Angels of Light, to feel this monumental wall of noise surge behind him once again. Thirty years ago Swans were part of the more extreme sections of New York’s No Wave anti-movement, their concerts near-legendary onslaughts of bile and provocation.
Today, Gira is every inch the elder statesmen of avant-rock and fronting this latest incarnation of Swans composed out of new and former members. The Liquid Room is like a church tonight, albeit one in which the air hangs heavy with the scent of the mass’s incense and patchouli oil odours. Gira and his five piece band are crammed onto the stage with a vast array of musical equipment as well as a wall of nasty-looking amps.
It’s an incredible ninety minute performance and incantation, Swans determined to wrestle forth some kind of tangible presence into our communal space. A barrage of guitars and percussion take the sound levels onto a physical plain; I can actually feel the music resonate deep within my sinus cavities. Yet, between songs Gira is all smiles, cracking funny stories about being on tour and promising to be offstage before The Liquid Room’s “disco” begins at 10.30.
Once the final extended cacophonous meltdown is complete, he assembles his band of mean-eyed thin men and they bow like The Beatles on Sunday Night at the Palladium. All just a show in the end, though one from which the full physical impact is only felt upon staggering out onto Victoria Street, quite deaf, unable to spatially navigate, bloodied and bruised.