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SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Swans biography
Part of the original No Wave scene in the early 1980's, the New York City rock band SWANS has since become one of the most respected experimental rock outfits to the present. Led by the visionary vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael GIRA, SWANS operated for nearly two decades from their inception in 1983, he is also well known producer. His daunting and impressive songwriting abilities created some of the strangest and revolutionary music to date. Influences of post-rock are seen in numerous records, notable in Soundtracks for the Blind, which predates a lot of the crescendo-core stuff, and the band has influenced numerous post-rock bands with their ever expanding sound and advanced technical approach to rock music. Although they broke up in 1997, SWANS reunited in 2010 to record two more albums, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky and The Seer.

Bio written by The Truth (Tanner) and updated by zravkapt (Darryl)

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Buy SWANS Music


The SeerThe Seer
Special Edition
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$11.56
$9.75 (used)
The Glowing ManThe Glowing Man
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Vinyl$29.48
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The SkyMy Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$11.30
$7.00 (used)
To Be KindTo Be Kind
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$11.64
$9.99 (used)
The Burning WorldThe Burning World
Water 2012
Audio CD$11.95
$11.94 (used)
Public Castration Is a Good IdeaPublic Castration Is a Good Idea
Thirsty Ear 1999
Audio CD$499.99
$69.99 (used)
White Light/ Love Of LifeWhite Light/ Love Of Life
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Audio CD$16.00
$15.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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SWANS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SWANS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 29 ratings
Filth
1983
3.39 | 23 ratings
Cop
1984
3.38 | 20 ratings
Greed
1986
3.69 | 20 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.44 | 48 ratings
Children of God
1987
3.13 | 20 ratings
The Burning World
1989
4.07 | 35 ratings
White Light From the Mouth of Infinity
1991
3.42 | 19 ratings
Love of Life
1992
3.85 | 32 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.17 | 46 ratings
Soundtracks for the Blind
1996
3.93 | 31 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
2010
4.20 | 118 ratings
The Seer
2012
4.00 | 149 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016

SWANS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 10 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
1986
4.67 | 3 ratings
Feel Good Now
1987
4.50 | 4 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
1990
5.00 | 2 ratings
Real Love
1992
4.50 | 2 ratings
Omniscience
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
1995
4.15 | 8 ratings
Swans Are Dead
1998
4.14 | 7 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
2012
4.25 | 8 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
2013
3.33 | 3 ratings
The Gate
2015

SWANS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SWANS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.32 | 3 ratings
Body to Body, Job to Job
1991
4.00 | 4 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forever Burned
2003

SWANS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 7 ratings
Swans
1982
2.96 | 7 ratings
Young God
1984
3.09 | 3 ratings
A Screw
1986
3.00 | 2 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
1986
4.00 | 7 ratings
Die Tür ist zu
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Oxygen
2014

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 White Light From the Mouth of Infinity by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.07 | 35 ratings

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White Light From the Mouth of Infinity
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On this release Swans go full, 100%, "tracks from this album were recommended as background music in a Vampire: the Masquerade book" goth, to the point where Michael Gira's vocal delivery adopts that particular stentorian tone reminiscent of goth vocalists trying really hard to imitate Andrew Eldritch.

This would be seen as a risible and mercifully brief phase in their existence between their shockingly raw early post- punk material that preceded this and their exceptional post-rock material that came after, were it not for one thing: they're amazingly good at this stuff. Perhaps Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds could have stood toe to toe with Swans in the post-punk/goth stakes at this point in time, but precious few others could.

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 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.20 | 118 ratings

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The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A sustained and carefully optimised sonic attack, The Seer runs the full gamut from ugly doomy drones to gorgeous post-rock passages and beyond. Definitely an album to lose yourself in over a wide space of time - with tracks extending for as long as half an hour this isn't something which you can really dip in and out of quickly - it offers some of the most subtle and startling soundscapes in recent music. Recent Swans releases have been divided between major releases and more fannish releases intended to provide means of funding the truly important projects; this is one of those important projects, and it truly merits being considered as such.

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 Soundtracks for the Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.17 | 46 ratings

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Soundtracks for the Blind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With snatches of found audio and occasional moments of punkish intensity emerging from the depths of a sinister ambient post-rock landscape, Swans' Soundtracks For the Blind is a daunting musical prospect which cries out for multiple listens to unpack its many mysteries. The final statement's of the band's original incarnation before they entered a period of hiatus, it sees the group's sound building on the comprehensive sonic recalibration of The Great Annihilator and moving it in a more experimental direction, with the band's post-punk and noise rock roots by now visible mostly in the form of attitude rather than actual sonic features.

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 Young God by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.96 | 7 ratings

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Young God
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars There's a flicker of tension and pensiveness about the slow doomy dirges on Swans' Young God. Whereas Cop came across as outraged, furious, but ultimately dead and rotting, somewhere deep within Young God something sinister is gradually coming to life. Complementing its parent album nicely - the two releases are usually conjoined on CD reissues - Young God is another important signpost in the early evolution of Swans and sounds even less like traditional doom metal than Cop. Fans of Burning Witch in particular might find this work an intriguing precedent for Witch's own particular brand of "how sickly can I make this riff sound?" doom.

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 Cop by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.39 | 23 ratings

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Cop
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Swans take doom metal riffs, post-punk production and disturbing lyrics and sort of mash them up into an unbelievably ugly gumbo on Cop, their second album. Howling about police brutality, heartache, jobs and violence, frontman Michael Gira is backed by riffs that sound like the world's roof falling in. Pegged by some as noise rock (and good golly is it noisy), I personally see it as a precedent for Black Flag's latter-day experiments in slowing their riffs down and getting weird (see, for instance, The Process of Weeding Out). Just about saved from doom metal territory by virtue of a complete lack of 1970s nostalgia or stoner pipe dreams, Cop is a cold, hard look at an ugly reality.

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 Soundtracks for the Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.17 | 46 ratings

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Soundtracks for the Blind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Michael Gira had already decided to disband SWANS and this was to be their final album with a farewell tour to follow. He certainly decided they would go out with a bang as this is almost 2 1/2 hours long and about as ambitious a release as I've heard. As far as being influential there are so many Post-Rock bands that point to this album as being their inspiration. This is also the highest rated SWANS album on RYM. Whereas GY!BE's early albums were apocalyptic with the end of the World being the theme, "Soundtracks For The Blind" comes off as being an album that looks deep into the human condition and all the darkness that comes with it. I'm not sure which is more frightening to be honest. This is a dark, experimental, disturbing, chilling work that will leave a mark on you. The line "Filthy with remorse" for some reason sums up a lot of what is on here for me. There are lots of loops, samples and spoken words including many recorded with a hand-held cassette recorder. All of what SWANS had recorded up to this point seems to be touched upon in some measure. Of course this would prove not to be their final album as it was very successful.

Disc one is titled "Silver" and opens with "Red Velvet Corridor" which is an interesting song to start with as we get a soundscape that is electronic-like with no vocals. "I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull" continues with that style until manipulated vocals on a loop arrive. The drums join in and build and the vocals fade. Great sound here. A calm after 3 minutes then spoken words come in that make me laugh. Creepy music joins in a minute later as he continues to speak. "Helpless Child" has this dark and haunting soundscape to start although it does brighten. Reserved vocals 3 minutes in. This is laid back and melancholic. Vocals stop 7 minutes in and the soundscape turns more adventerous. Strummed guitar and organ dominate. Drums after 9 minutes as it starts to build. I like the guitar off in the distance late.

"Live Through Me" is a track I really like, very electronic sounding with strummed guitar a minute in. "Yum-Yab Killers" doesn't even sound like the same band with those Punk-like female vocals from Jarboe and that catchy sound. "The Beautiful Days" features another dark and inventive soundscape. I just love listening to this with the headphones on. So much going on here that plays with my imagination. A child's voice comes in that's on a loop around 3 1/2 minutes. This will stop but come back later. A haunting soundscape takes over late. Spoken words 7 minutes in that are disturbing. "Volcano" is my least favourite song on here. Female vocals with uptempo drumming and pulsating sounds. Just not a fan at all. It's so out of place.

"Mellothumb" has so much atmosphere it's suffocating. I love it! Intensity before 2 minutes. "All Lined Up" opens with what sounds like field recordings on a loop as other sounds join in. Spoken words a minute in then it kicks in hard as these contrasts continue. "Surrogate" is a short piece with some beautiful sounds. "How They Suffer" opens with a chaotic soundscape before Gira's dad comes in speaking about being legally blind, it ends with Jarboe's mom talking about her health issues. "Animus" ends disc one with some beautiful guitar and keys that echo. Reserved vocals arrive that are sad but meaningful. A change 5 1/2 minutes in as the soundscape starts to drown the vocals.

Disc 2 is called "Copper" and it begins with "Red Velvet Wound". Female vocals and a restrained but catchy melody all start to deconstruct before a minute into a experimental soundscape. She stops singing late. "The Sound" is such an influential track to the Post-Rock genre. A psychedelic and relaxed intro with sounds that echo before reserved vocals arrive around 2 minutes. The vocals stop 4 minutes in as the sound becomes more dynamic. Just kicking ass as this continues to build. Suddenly a calm arrives 10 minutes in as we get that opening theme back and the vocals return. "Her mouth Is Filled With Honey" has strange noises and what sounds like an alarm going off. Samples join in. The alarm stops around 1 1/2 minutes as strange noises continue and spoken words arrive. A dark and eerie ending to this one.

"Blood Section" is a catchy instrumental of guitar and drums mostly. "Hypogirl" opens with a demonic scream from Jarboe as she then starts to pretty much speak the lyrics as the guitar is strummed. Not a fan of this one. "Minus Something" has such a cool soundscape as these spoken words arrive that make me smile. Man that is a creepy sound. He stops talking 2 minutes in as the dark soundscape continues. "Empathy" has a slow and mellow sound as reserved vocals arrive speaking the words. When he stops 3 minutes in the music becomes louder but then it calms right down before 4 minutes. Vocals are back a minute later in this dirge-like piece. "I Love You This Much" has a freaky but cool sounding soundscape with all these inventive sounds. It turns almost confusing 3 minutes in like someone on acid not knowing what's going on.

"YRP" has these strange and manipulated vocal sounds to start. A dark and minimalistic sound then takes over as spoken female words arrive after 1 1/2 minutes. She's singing before 3 minutes then she speaks again. Depressing and hopeless words including vocal melodies. Some heaviness after 6 minutes after she says "I'm your property". "Fans Lament" is almost upbeat as we get strummed guitar and drums as male vocal melodies join in. "Secret Friends" opens with what sounds like organ that echoes for about a minute then strummed guitar takes over as vocal melodies join in briefly. "The Final Sacrifice" is a live tune. Keys, percussion, bass and more to start in this laid back and melancholic track. It's building around 2 minutes then these deep male vocals arrive 3 1/2 minutes in. Lots of emotion in these vocals at 6 minutes and especially at 8 1/2 minutes. "YRP2"sounds great to start as some yells arrive that will make your hair standup. "Surrogate Drone" has lots of drones.

I'd love to edit this down to one disc as it would be a five star recording but it is what it is, almost 2 1/2 hours of music that while innovative and influential, it still has it's flaws. A solid 4 stars.

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 My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.93 | 31 ratings

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My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by witchfinder_general

4 stars I listen to Swans for a very long time, i love their proggresive/experimental rock with some improvisational elements style. Their music just hit me "like diamond bullet straight through my forhead", just like Godspeed You! Black Emperor few years ago. Every album is different so its hard to rate their particular piece of work.

Doesnt matter what people say, this is great album, better than the new ones but a little weaker than the oldies. Production is just perfect - all instruments sound great, it sounds very harsh and heavy (not as heavy as in "childern...") but this is a good thing. Gira did a great job releasing this piece of art. But is it essential? I don't think so, it has everything except this "thing" called factor x, thing that "Soundtracks for the Blind" or "Children of God" had. It starts very psychedelic with "No Words/No Thoughts" its going very smooth through "Jim", "You [%*!#]ing people make me sick", "Inside Madeline" and ends very graceful with "Little Mouth". I love it!

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 The Great Annihilator by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.85 | 32 ratings

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The Great Annihilator
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Lewian

3 stars The Great Annihilator could be seen as something of a return to their darker beginnings, or on the other hand as a predecessor of their later development in "Seer" and "To Be Kind" (the next release "Soundtrack for the Blind" is quite different, though). Although there are three calmer songs on it, it's vast majority is dark, heavy, archaic, guitar oriented, and driven by monotonous rhythms, and as such it is among the most consistent Swans records. It also represents a turn after a number of more melodic records with folky elements, of which there are hardly any here. Obvious influences are darker new wave music such as Killing Joke, Joy Division and Dead can Dance, and on the other hand I feel reminded of early Krautrock; the beginning could have been in Amon Duul II's Phallus Dei but for the more 90s standard production here, and some of the more hypnotic parts make me associate early Can (this will become much stronger on Seer).

The monstrous wall of sound sometimes comes quite close to Seer, but Swans are just slightly less wild and crazy and more disciplined here. I like how the drums keep a good balance between a machine-like steadyness and well-dosed hints at urgency and overdrive, showing where this could go without really going there already (again, Seer is two steps further). Gira's voice is rather monotonous here, which gives the thing a stronger goth feel than other of their records. Also they didn't yet have the nerve to play out their orgies to 15+ minutes. Quite a number of songs are faded out and some faded in, making me believe that they may actually have been part of longer sessions, but they didn't yet consider it a good idea to put them on a record in full length.

The Great Annihilator is dark and atmospheric and I'd think it was an important step for the band foreshadowing what they'd be able to do in the 2010s. It's a good record for those who like this kind of atmosphere. On the other hand, it has a somewhat incomplete feel to it with a number of ideas tried out that would only be elaborated later, and is perhaps with all its obvious influences not as original and autonomous than many other Swans-releases. I like it but for my taste it's somehow eclipsed by Seer and To Be Kind, which I got to know earlier and which are far more radical and unique. Had I known this already in the 1990s, who knows, I may have given it more stars.

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 Greed by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.38 | 20 ratings

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Greed
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I guess something had to give considering the pulverising onslaught of the previous recordings. 'Greed' reveals a stripped down 'Swans' and is a highly negatively charged album. It doesn't have the masochistic pleasure of the previous 'Cop'. Michael Gira's deep and aggressive vocals remain. He sounds like he has a cement mixer where his larynx should be.

There's no happy go lucky pub-knees-up to be heard anywhere in the vicinity of 'Swans' at the best of times and this is no exception. In fact this is probably their most miserable sounding album they released. The opener has the surprising inclusion of a piano. The half speed guitar plays the same 4 chord guitar sequence as Floyd's 'In the Flesh' and it's a real downer, so if you're not keen on heavy negative emotions you're advised to steer well clear.

Jarboe makes her first appearance as a member of Swans on 'Nobody' - a self-hating dirge that has some wonderfully apocalyptic 'Gira' vocals at the 3 minute mark as some crunching, repetitive drums appear. Jarboe's contribution is relegated to some 'oohs and ahhs' in the background. This is Swans' anti capitalist, money is evil recording. The drums are particularly well mixed in 'Greed' and have a doom-laden echoey feel. There's a clever approach on this album where quiet pauses are used which add to the overall feel of imminent looming disaster.

Musically it's nothing special. Quite poor in fact. It's the emotion and atmosphere it creates that raises this album above the sum of its parts. I wasn't aware of Michael Gira's state of mind until hearing this album which was the most vocal orientated to this point. You therefore pay more attention to what he's bumping his gums about - and it's not good. Not good at all. Clearly his brain was full of broken bottles.

The stodgy lethargy evaporates with the entirely Industrial 'Money is Flesh'. This is a repetitive, thumping, drum based mantra where once again it's the intense baritone and dominant vocals that make the track shine.

The undoubted highlight is the superb 'Time is Money'. An upbeat but really violent track with some very disturbing imagery. It's best I don't dwell on this here. Lets just say that it's sexual in nature. This is probably my favourite 'Swans' track of all time and it's also their most evil moment. The drums are pounding, relentless and machine-gun like. It's also guitar free. 'Gira' sings like he's just flown his kite into an overhead electrical pylon where he spits venom and vitriol from the outset. This is as loud as War itself.

'Greed' and its successor 'Holy Money' are two peas in the same pod. This could easily have been a double album but that would have left even the most strong willed left thoroughly suicidal.

The musicians must have left these recordings bewildered and totally dejected. There's no fun to be had at all. Every sound and beat is used as a vehicle for Michael Gira's demented, tortured and unhappy mindset.

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 Holy Money by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.69 | 20 ratings

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Holy Money
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

3 stars It can't have been a bundle of laughs on board the 'Swans' train while recording this. 'Holy Money' sounds like it's being played and sung by the undead from 'Zombie Flesh Eaters'. It's a heavy and bleak dirge despite the occasional Jarboe female vocals.

I guess it's good for clearing unwanted guests from a late night party as those irritating stragglers hang about chatting 10 feet from the door. The atmosphere is oppressive as you'd expect, but it's less of a barrage with a bit of space to breathe compared to their first recordings. And that's not necessarily a good thing...

'Holy Money' like its predecessor 'Greed' is certainly no uplifting experience and lacks the density and violence of those first two excellent sledgehammer albums. In saying that, there is the rather impressive 'A Screw'. Spoken, rather than shouted lyrics are wrapped around a hugely repetitive and heavy stomping drum sequence.

This is one of the first 'Swans' recordings I bought and I was as unimpressed then as I am now 22 years later. It's one of those albums that just rubs me up the wrong way. I find it something of an an annoyance to sit through in its entirety. It's too 'dead'.

The only truly great song is the battering 'Money is Flesh', with its superb jackhammer drums and repetitive lyrics. It's real heavy stuff listeners... and almost guitar free. Michael Gira sounds so much more acceptable to my damaged ears when he's screaming, spitting blood and spouting venom.

Jarboe's 'Blackmail' is a jarring oddity which may well have fit on a different recording. The soft piano and pretty vocal style is totally at odds with bulk of 'Holy Money'. It's like trying to put on a pair of gloves that have four fingers. Annoying.

I'm in a generous mood and full of gin and orange, and therefore find it hard to give it any less than 3 stars. It was a close run thing though.

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