Swans - Leaving Meaning. review


29 users:
Band: Swans
Album: Leaving Meaning.
Release date: October 2019

Disc I
01. Hums
02. Annaline
03. The Hanging Man
04. Amnesia
05. Leaving Meaning
06. Sunfucker

Disc II
01. Cathedrals Of Heaven
02. The Nub
03. It's Coming It's Real
04. Some New Things [CD/Digital bonus]
05. What Is This?
06. My Phantom Limb

Are Swans dead? Yes and no. But Michael Gira is alive!

What do I mean by that? I mean that Leaving Meaning. comes at a pretty pivotal point in Swans long career. Founded in 1982 and moving through everything from post-punk to no wave to industrial rock to gothic rock to neofolk to post-rock before announcing in 1998 that Swans Are Dead and dead they were until 2010. What followed were four albums, the latter three of which have been some of Swans most celebrated and also their longest as well, each clocking in at over two hours in runtime. In 2017, the band in its iteration at its time announced once again that it would stop touring and performing, and up until Leaving Meaning. announcement, it could've meant the complete end of Swans. But at the same time, they were right about it being the end of that iteration of Swans. Rather it is the end of Swans as a band, as much as Swans ever were a band.

Leaving Meaning. finds Swans completely at the helm of main-man Michael Gira as the only official member, the rest being a cast of revolving contributors, some of which ex-members of Swans, some of which contributor from Gira's inter-Swans project Angels Of Light, but also some possibly familiar names like Anna Von Hausswolff or Ben Frost, even an entire band with The Necks. This isn't though that much of a big change, considering that Michael Gira is the only constant member of the band, with close second being Norman Westberg, who still makes contributions to the record. Michael Gira is Swans, whether we like it or not. Especially considering some of the songs on the record were previously part of either Gira's solo album I Am Not This or the fundraiser album What Is This?. But I assume most people had not heard those earlier versions and we can concentrate on the final completed opus, the rebirth, Leaving Meaning..

The first thing to notice is that even though it's still a double album, Leaving Meaning. is at least half an hour shorter than the three albums which preceded it. But in tone and genre, it is not a far cry from what was on those records, with its unmistakably Swans touch, but distinct enough to feel like a new incarnation. Even with its reduced runtime, the album is once again very patience testing, with the music moving at very glacial paces that could put funeral doom to shame at points, but that don't really feel stretched out for the sake of covering ground. Swans have played with this "less is more" approach for a while now, and even though I don't find that Leaving Meaning, does it as well as some of their previous albums, it is still a far cry from most bands attempting the same approach. If there ever was an album this year that I could describe as hypnotic it would be this one. With its meticulous layers that really take their time into building the sound and its often repetitive grooves, it achieves that feeling quite seamlessly, and in here I have to give credit to The Necks whose contributions in the title track and in "The Nub" make those some of the most hypnotic on the record.

That's not to say that the other tracks don't achieve the same effect, but it's great seeing Swans influence on other artists being felt in a Swans record, from both the aforementioned The Necks and from Anna Von Hausswolff, whose latest album, Dead Magic, is some of the most powerful recent examples of the band's influence, and having her and sister's vocals on "It's Coming It's Real" does give such a great contrast between the chill Hawaiian vibe and the impending sense of doom of the dronish pace and Gira's apocalyptic vocals. Overall, through the record there is a bit of a lighter tone than on the previous records, felt on the likes of the aforementioned tracks and on "Annaline", the folkiest track on the record. And on the other hand we have the cathartically tragressive "The Hanging Man" and "Sunfucker", and the groovy "Some New Things", all of which have that constant sense of dread in their repetitive grooves. The extended personnel gives each track a slightly different flavor, which does make the album feel a bit disjointed (especially with the album's flow being most affected), but it creates a lot more interesting sounds to be heard, with not only the approach but the instruments and the vocals on the album having their range extended as well.

Leaving Meaning. takes the cohesive behemoth of the previous three records and turns it into a more manageable but slightly more disjointed beast, both in sound and runtime. It doesn't feel like it reaches the highs that they used to do, but even its lows are extremely rewarding and it feels great to have the band shape-shift a bit in personnel and approach, after it felt like they said everything they need to say with the previous incarnation.


Written on 10.12.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 35 users
12.12.2019 - 10:52
Excelent review!! And, apart form that. I totally agree with you...
16.12.2019 - 18:41
Boxcar Willy
yr a kook
I enjoyed this album quite a bit. The title track is really good.
14:22 - Marcel Hubregtse
I do your mum

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