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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 Glowing ManThe Glowing Man
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Audio CD$11.94
$10.98 (used)
To Be KindTo Be Kind
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$10.02
$8.38 (used)
The SeerThe Seer
YOUNG GOD 2016
Vinyl$21.49
$26.16 (used)
Soundtracks for the BlindSoundtracks for the Blind
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$13.20
$13.19 (used)
The Great AnnihilatorThe Great Annihilator
Remastered
YOUNG GOD 2016
Audio CD$10.75
$10.74 (used)
White Light/ Love Of LifeWhite Light/ Love Of Life
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Audio CD$15.70
$14.40 (used)
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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)

4.06 | 34 ratings
Filth
1983
3.38 | 25 ratings
Cop
1984
3.34 | 22 ratings
Greed
1986
3.69 | 20 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.31 | 63 ratings
Children Of God
1987
3.13 | 21 ratings
The Burning World
1989
4.02 | 42 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1991
3.74 | 24 ratings
Love Of Life
1992
3.52 | 39 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.17 | 52 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
1996
3.91 | 37 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2010
4.15 | 133 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.95 | 167 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
4.19 | 31 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016

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

4.45 | 11 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
4.18 | 9 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)

3.93 | 8 ratings
Swans
1982
2.51 | 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 Tr ist zu
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Oxygen
2014

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Swans by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
3.93 | 8 ratings

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Swans
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars The experimental rock band SWANS began in New York city emerging from the short lived no wave scene that was taking a side trip off the post-punk bandwagon and in 1982 found the band releasing their very first album in the form of this eponymous EP. While SWANS have evolved their sound significantly over the decades they have never lost the basic groove that can be heard on this early offering and like most SWANS albums is the creation of the mutli-instrumentalist, singer / songwriter and band leader Michael Gira.

As with the majority of no wave creations of the era, this one is characterized by hypnotic bass grooves, abrasive atonal guitar sounds, heavy percussive drives and a thick brooding raw and filthy atmosphere with melodies being replaced by mesmerizing repetition in the galloping rhythms. This early lineup of SWANS consisted of Jonathan Kane on drums, Bob Pezzola on guitar and is the only SWANS release to feature saxophone with Daniel Galli-Duani on board as well as the only constant member Gira. Despite the inclusion of the brass, this doesn't sound jazzy in the least bit and is as abrasive and disgustingly dissonant and industrial as the other instruments.

While the EP was only ever released on 7" vinyl on its own, it has been faithfully restored and remastered and appears tacked onto the end of the remastered version of "Filth," the band's first full-length album which came out the following year. While SWANS at this point didn't quite muster up the variety of sounds and expressions that later albums would propel them through the ensuing decades, this early SWANS makes up for it in that quintessential post-punk attitude that combined with the no wave alienating aesthetics makes this an adrenaline inducing slice of early 80s underground music that i find quite addictive. Just as essential as "Filth" and a fitting sidekick tacked onto its remastered edition.

 The Great Annihilator by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.52 | 39 ratings

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The Great Annihilator
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After the comparatively accessible gothic rock sound that Swans adopted on White Light From the Mouth of Infinity showed signs of cracking at the seams on Love of Life, The Great Annihilator seems to have been a conscious attempt by Swans to try and find a new musical direction without necessarily being too sure about what it should be. A lot of the post-punk thorniness of their early material comes back here, though perhaps a bit slower, and at stages it seems to be fumbling its way towards the post-rock sound of Soundtracks For the Blind without quite actually arriving at it. It's an interesting transitional album but it's very much a work in progress between two peaks of their accomplishment, rather than a major pillar of their discography.
 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.19 | 31 ratings

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The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.19 | 31 ratings

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The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A newcomer discovering the music of Swans through any of the band's recent albums might feel like Vasco Nuez 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.

 Children Of God by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.31 | 63 ratings

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Children Of God
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The culmination of Swans' early post-punk no wave era offers up what is, for the most part, a unique sonic experience. Not entirely - album opener New Mind sounds like The Fall so much I swear that Michael Gira is doing some sort of Mark E. Smith impersonation on the vocals. Dark post-punk nearly-gothic music running down religion isn't exactly rare, but music which sounds like it's full on dead and rotting on the inside like some sort of sonic zombie is a whole other deal. It's no surprise that from here they went down the full-on gothic neofolk route they took from The Burning World onwards, because this takes their early sound about as far as it can go without descending into absurd self-parody.
 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.95 | 167 ratings

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To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Eh, I'm not sure about this one. It isn't bad - of course it isn't, this is late-period Swans here - but much of it seems to lack a certain Swans something. The band seem to draw on the influence of Godspeed You Black Emperor here and there - see in particular the climax of Nathalie Neal - and whilst for the most part that is a good thing, it does make this a disorienting listen. And two hours is probably too long by far, the band showing little willingness to actually edit down their material to tease out the successful parts and rework the limp bits.
 Love Of Life by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.74 | 24 ratings

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Love Of Life
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This one is something of a sequel to White Light From the Mouth of Infinity, and its packaging and reissue history is a big clue to that; the two albums went out of print for a long while until they got reissued on a compilation with each other and a bunch of bonus tracks from the same era recently, and the cover art shows the bunny from the cover of White Light coming to a bad end.

Musically, the group continue their bid to combine commercially viable gothic rock with their particular brand of post- punk miserablism, but they get a little more experimental with it, with results which are a bit mixed but end up being interesting to listen to (even if the bid for commercial viability seems to have collapsed). Even when they start threatening to get into, say, something resembling the more conventional Melvins songs or perhaps something the Pixies might have picked up on, they end up falling back into their old weirder ways, with some tracks resurrecting the stark industrial noisy doom sound of their early releases at disconcerting moments. Worth a dabble, but kind of falls between two stools.

 White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.02 | 42 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.

 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.15 | 133 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.
 Soundtracks For The Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.17 | 52 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.
Thanks to angelmk for the artist addition. and to E&O Team for the last updates

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