Album of the Week: Swans - The Beggar | 2023 Week 25
Iconic cult experimental band continue to solidify their legacy on 16th studio album + new records from Cable Ties, Collarbones, Militarie Gun, Trophy Eyes, Lunice and more!
You’d be hard pressed to find a band as influential, enduring, evolving, experimental, divisive, and beloved as Swans. Formed over four decades ago by Michael Gira, the band’s leader and constant, Swans were initially at the forefront of the harsh, abrasive and avantgarde “no wave” movement, before going on to cover a much wider range of styles, from post-rock epics to acoustic alt-folk ballads.
An exercise in slow building, hypnotic and emotional restraint, The Beggar alternates between stripped back acoustic guitars and Gira’s hushed tones, to fully fleshed out, lush atmospheric arrangements, packed with all sorts of strings and melodies.
In typical atypical Swans behaviour, the album is a mammoth, weighing in at over two hours across just 11 tracks (you do the maths…). Even more confusingly, title track The Beggar that sits in the middle of the track count with it’s sprawling, dark vibes spread over 10 minutes has a follow-up of sorts as the 10th track - all 44 minutes of The Beggar Lover (Three), which almost acts as an album within an album. Ahhh, Michael Gira, don’t ever change.
Speaking on The Beggar, Gira explains “After numerous pandemic-induced cancellations of tours for the previous Swans album leaving meaning, and an apparent bottomless pit of waiting, waiting, waiting, and the strange disorientation that came with this sudden but interminable forced isolation I decided it was time to write songs for a new Swans album and forget about everything else.
They came relatively easily, always informed by the suspicion that these could be my last. When I finally was able to travel, songs in hand, to Berlin to work with my friends recording this record, the feeling was akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from Black and White to Color. Now I’m feeling quite optimistic. My favorite color is pink. I hope you enjoy the album.”
I can only speak for myself, Michael, but enjoy the album I do.
The best of the rest of this week's records:
Cable Ties - All Her Plans [Poison City Records] AUS
Collarbones - Filth [Independent] AUS
Electronic / Indie
Dolce Blue - Sweet Melancholy [Shark Bait Records] AUS
Indie / Alternative
Fractures - Shift [Independent] AUS
Handsome Gang - Every Second We Try [Dot Dash Recordings] AUS
Lunice - Open [Lucky Me Recordings] USA
Militarie Gun - Life Under The Gun [Loma Vista / Virgin] USA
Rock / Alternative
Trophy Eyes - Suicide and Sunshine [Hopeless Records Inc.] AUS
Punk / Rock
Wye Oak - Every Day Like The Last [Merge Records] USA
Alternative / Folk