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Swans The Glowing Man album cover
3.93 | 104 ratings | 4 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (57:51)
1. Cloud of Forgetting (12:43)
2. Cloud of Unknowing (25:12)
3. The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black (14:32)
4. People Like Us (5:24)

CD 2 (61:29)
5. Frankie M. (20:54)
6. When Will I Return? (5:24)
7. The Glowing Man (28:53)
8. Finally, Peace (6:18)

Total Time 119:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Gira / vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, producer
- Norman Westberg / electric guitar, vocals
- Kristof Hahn / acoustic, lap steel & electric guitars, vocals
- Christopher Pravdica / bass, vocals
- Phil Puleo / drums, dulcimer, "knocks", vocals
- Thor Harris / percussion, vibes, bells, dulcimer

- Jennifer Gira / vocals (6,8)
- Kaela Sinclair / backing vocals
- Katrina Cain / backing vocals
- Bill Rieflin / piano, synth, Mellotron, bass, electric guitar, drums, vocals
- Gerald Jones / mandolin, banjo
- Bach Norwood / double bass
- Buffi Jacobs / cello
- Okkyung Lee / cello solo (2)
- Daniel Hart / violin
- Stuart Mack / trumpet
- Joakim Toftgaard / trombone
- Rachel Wood / flute

Releases information

Artwork: Phil Puleo & M. Gira

2CD Young God Records - YG58 (2016, US)
2CD Young God Records - CDSTUMM 389 (2016, Europe)
2CD Traffic - TRCP-201 (2016, Japan)
2CD+DVD Traffic - TRCP 203~205 (2016, Japan)
2CD+DVD Traffic - TRCP-203 (2016, Japan)
2CD+DVD Young God Records - (2016, Europe) (deluxe edition)
2CD+DVD Young God Records - YG58 (2016, US) (deluxe edition)
3LP Young God Records - Mute YG58 (2016, Europe)
3LP Young God Records - YG58 (2016, US)
3LP+DVD Young God Records - YG58 (2016, US)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SWANS The Glowing Man ratings distribution

(104 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

SWANS The Glowing Man reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Neu!mann
5 stars A newcomer discovering the music of Swans through any of the band's recent albums might feel like Vasco Nuņez de Balboa seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, confronted suddenly by an awareness of something almost unfathomably vast, immeasurably deep, and more than a little intimidating. Their latest in a series of epic two-disc releases is also possibly the best of the bunch: a potential masterpiece waiting to be acknowledged as such, although the effort may require some patience.

This is a group able to elevate Post Rock monotony to a very loud, very intense dramatic art. Few other acts have the same knack for transforming a single note - minor key, of course - into an ungentle 30-minute dirge: ebbing, flowing, slowly collapsing, even more slowly reforming...all of it overlaid by Michael Gira's droning poetry, likewise stretching every labored syllable into a dark and secret mantra. I wouldn't dare quote a sample: his lyrics read like the lucid dreams of a manic-depressive shaman, and every stanza acts like a vortex sucking the unwary visitor into a bottomless abyss.

The band behind Gira, including new KING CRIMSON drummer Bill Rieflin (listed as 'Hit Man and 7th Swan'), aren't really musicians: these are fire-and-brimstone ascetics with amplifiers and guitars...lots of guitars. Together they create an almighty racket, dense and powerful but rimmed with a mysterious fluorescent light. Rieflin's guest appearance is appropriate: the music shares a loose kinship with Robert Fripp's more esoteric soundscapes, as heard in the waves of choral voices opening "Frankie M" (two of the backing singers are credited simply with 'atmospheric voices').

But the album isn't all ambient rock. Sometimes it actually rocks, especially over Disc Two, where the music comes into sharp focus. Check out the 29-minute title track, which really lets out all the stops. After a long, heavy, hypnotic prologue the song shifts gears suddenly upward into a relentless, atypically urgent groove, recalling the stronger motorik rhythms of early CAN or classic NEU! It's an incredibly tense performance, resolved at (long) last by the surprisingly handsome melody of "Finally, Peace": an upbeat, album-ending anthem currently lodged in my head like a spike of pure radiance

The total experience is no less inscrutable or demanding than other Swans albums I've been exposed to. And yet somehow it seems more accessible, or maybe I'm just growing more accustomed to the band's monolithic style. On principle I would never award five stars to a new album until it's withstood the test of time. But the entire two-disc package is almost long enough to pass that trial in a single sitting, so why wait? Like death, like taxes, like the apotheosis of Gira's unique musical vision, some things are inevitable.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'The Glowing Man - Swans (82/100)

I'm not completely sure why I prefer The Glowing Man over To Be Kind, to be honest. Comparisons between the two are practically inevitable; Swans have created an experience closely similar to their last record, not simply in terms of the music's uneasy atmosphere, lavish arrangement and unwieldy length, but with regards to the way it's been discussed with others as well.

Getting into the work of Swans has been an uphill battle for me in more ways than one. No compromises can be made when listening to one of their works, especially when you consider that some of the magic would be lost in breaking these two hour beasts into smaller sessions. The Glowing Man may be hailed (and rightly so!) as a gentler take by Swans' standards, but that might be the reason why it's ultimately resulted in the emotional reaction To Be Kind only ever hinted at.

As with the last album, I'm amazed that a rock album could challenge so and spark discussion like this in 2016. Where To Be Kind got that reaction across by pushing each aspect of music to its extremes -- be that in terms of length, heaviness, repetition, density or whatever else -- The Glowing Man rides gracefully on those coattails, creating music that still embraces those extremes without so much of their inherent edge. Swans' drone-rock sounds almost comforting in many sections of The Glowing Man, and even the most excessive segments here (like the ceaseless offbeat repetition in the half-hour title track) sound like they've been tightly reined in.

For some fans, I could see why this would make The Glowing Man seem like the lesser option. In some ways at least, it probably is. By this trilogy's standards, I don't find myself nearly as challenged listening to this one. Where The Seer and To Be Kind practically had to strangle appreciation out of me following the first couple of listens, The Glowing Man appears as a gentler return to familiar territory. The compositions are long, drawn out and eerily hypnotic. While it's not necessarily any more melodic, and certainly no more compact than its predecessors, the welling up of sound is consistently prettier here. If The Glowing Man is a journey, it's not trying to take you to every emotional extreme, as Swans were wont to do in the past. There's an undertone of uneasiness throughout the album, but it really does sound like the kind of meditative droning journey that could be interpreted as a greater parts reflection over action.

The inclusion of shorter tracks was a brilliant move, and one that I think really plays into The Glowing Man' role as the "gentle giant" of their 2010s trilogy. Where the longer sprawls conjure feeling in the slow build of dense textures and harmonies, shorter pieces give the band a chance to accentuate emotion with greater control. I think "Finally, Peace" does a near-perfect job of capping off the record, especially after such an exhausting climax in the title track. While it may seem like a repeat of the experience of To Be Kind at times, this album does a wonderful job of seeing off this chapter of the band's career together. The Glowing Man isn't a repeat so much as it is a reflection of the material they've put out in recent years. It's probably time for Swans to start moving their sound on again now that the trilogy is over. Although I've always held back from calling myself a true fan of theirs, I'm really excited to see where the band will go next.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

Review by Warthur
4 stars A solid followup to To Be Kind, and a substantial improvement on it. Swans' post-rock sound here remains strongly influenced by other artists in this realm - substantial sections of The Cloud of Unknowing in particular make me think of this incarnation of the group as Godspeed You Black Swans! - but the musical twists and turns into other styles feel better judged and the material is less padded out. At points they go to places you never expected to visit with Swans; in particular, at one point The World Looks Red/The World Looks Back shifts gears and starts sounding booty- shakingly funky, but it somehow works within the wider context of the composition.
Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This album by Swans sounds nothing like Swans of many years ago. That's no surprise to those that have followed their albums through the years. However, "The Glowing Man" does have a lot in common to those early, muddy and plodding albums. That common thread is the study of repetition. It's just not as thick as it used to be, however, it can be just as unrelenting and unnerving at times. No doubt that this album is much better than those early albums as the music is so much more varied and exploratory, expansive and epic now. This is the path they continue to follow, however "The Glowing Man" is probably one of the most apparent in showing Michael Gira's obsession with repetition and the development of repeating passages.

There are only 8 tracks on this monster of an album, and on the surface, it may seem like it could be chore to get through some of these tracks that push the half an hour mark, especially if it is based around repetition. However, the one thing that seems to stand out on this album which was less apparent on the previous album "To Be Kind" is that there are sudden shifts scattered throughout the album, especially on the longest tracks. This brings in a variable element that makes this album not stagnate so much. There are many times when you hear a repetition that seems to push the limit of you insanity, and just when you think the repetition of an idea has reached your limit, the song can suddenly go off into a completely different direction. That is what makes Swans stand out above the many post rock artists out there. While many of them follow formulas that sometimes get boring, this band continues to break new ground, and many of those other bands end up following in their footsteps. Swans is an innovative band and always has been, whether you like them or not. This is the case with this album, and the sudden shifts are what makes this album stand out in their repertoire. Other than that, with tracks as expansive as the ones on this album, it is very difficult to try to take each track apart and analyze it.

This is not one of my favorite Swans albums, but it is still one that I play through from time to time. I don't recommend it as one to start your Swans exploration with, but it still is an excellent album and sits just above the previous album, but not quite as good as "The Seer". Anyway, it is an excellent album for "experienced" Swans and/or progressive music fans.

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