Swans | Swans Related Projects | Review

SF Weekly Review

The kind of disturbing intensity expected from a "Swans Related Project."

Swans Related Project: Jarboe
Sacrificial Cake (Alternative Tentacles)
Swans Related Project: M. Gira
Drainland (Alternative Tentacles)

After nearly a decade and a half of turning inner turmoil into cathartic wastelands of tortured sound, Swans gurus Michael Gira and Jarboe have embarked on two new solo ventures: Sacrificial Cake marks Jarboe's third outing as a lone leader; Drainland is M. Gira's debut. Both discs fuse sex, violence, and considerable nihilism with the kind of disturbing intensity expected from a "Swans Related Project."

Amid trenchant layers of shimmering guitar and swampy synthetics, Gira explores the self-delusion of alcoholic detachment.

Drainland kicks off with "You see through me," a verite-sounding taped encounter in which Jarboe confronts Gira with her anxiety about his "drinking too much." Gira argues that it's "your problem, not mine." and that she must now "support" his alcoholism: "Shut your mouth and get some money." The release closes with "Blind," Gira's acknowledgement of his "self-deception" and a plea for pity "Because when we're drinking/ We can never be filled." He intones, "When I look in the mirror/ I feel dead/ I feel cold / I am blind." Bloody images of "pleasure-pain and fear and hatred" weave through these soundtracks to chilling effect.

Jarboe's Sacrificial offering is not as emotionally raw and tragic as Gira's opus, even if similarly nightmarish visions sweep the listener into a hypnotic haze of keyboards and synthetic beats. Too often, the vocals assume an affected vibe that renders the production sterile and sometimes silly. The strained sensuality and whispered didacticism of tunes like "Not Logical" ("Open your mind/ Sensational, metaphysical, insatiable ... Open your mind! Heterosexual, astrological") come off as ambient rhymes for the black-light crowd. Jarboe's quasi-steamy lyrics on "Surgical Savior" may get a rise out of a suburban 13-year-old, but they leave me cold: "I will open you! Make you feel / Through me you know/ Desire is real."

Ugly Swans "Goddamn the sun," Michael Gira of Swans groans on one of the group's softer, prettier numbers; "Time Is Money (Bastard)," proclaims one of the torturously noisy songs for which his group is better known. Whether they're strumming sweet melodies on acoustic guitars or banging large metallic objects together, Gira and dulcet-toned partner Jarboe turn sunshine into something sinister.