Swans blow fuse in Grand Rapids, plow ‘terrifying and thrilling’ sonic terrain (Local Spins)

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  • February 24, 2015

  • Playing in front of a capacity crowd at The Pyramid Scheme, New York’s legendary post-punkers led by Michael Gira delivered intense, lengthy and improvisational musical pieces.

    A sold-out crowd packed The Pyramid Scheme on Monday for a dense and intense performance by post-punk legends Swans. Over the course of a two-and-a-half hour show, the sextet built a brutalist edifice of layered sound that was terrifying and thrilling. The group’s musical pieces rarely resemble traditional songs — they’re more sculptural than declaratory. But the sonic terrain they traveled Monday ranged from delicate gong washes and dark ragas to plodding drone rock and the angular disco of the damned.
  • In a rare treat for Grand Rapids, there was even a little Herman’s Hermits thrown in for good measure. Swans’ founder and frontman Michael Gira broke into a verse of “I’m Hen-ery the Eighth, I am” to kill time shortly after the group blew the stage power. The band is accustomed to larger venues, and apparently they used more juice than the system could handle.
  • [UPDATE: Upon further research, it appears that this kind of stuff happens to Swans somewhat regularly. Which, ya gotta admit, approaches a Spinal Tap-level of excellence.]
  • The outage was only a small hiccup, though, providing a bit of levity in a show that was otherwise devoted to an almost ritual-like presentation. The band members maintained intense focus on each other rather than hamming it up for the audience. It wasn’t toe-tapping (though it was occasionally head-bobbing). The music was composed, with Gira acting as conductor, but there was plenty of space for improvisation.

    The duo Xylouris White opened the show with a mysterious and cinematic sonic journey of their own. Cretan lutist George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White played a series of songs that resembled a musical waterfall — relentless, sometimes serene, sometimes crashing on the rocks.

    Read more about Swans in this Local Spins interview with Gira.

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