Swans' Michael Gira goes understated on new album 

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Since Swans’ 1980s debut in the New York downtown scene, Michael Gira has woven the tough noise of the band’s early work with the orchestral flourish of his side projects. Beginning in the late ’90s, Swans released a series of double-CD, 90-minute epic works relying on the percussion of Thor Harris and declarative guitar of Norman Westberg. So how does Gira avoid “epic fatigue”? In Leaving Meaning (Young God Records), the seventh such double disc, he chooses quiet understatement with strings and synthesizers, though he doesn’t hesitate to shout and chant, or call on gongs and bass drums from Harris.

Gira has been on a transcendentalism kick in the 21st century, and the last few Swans mega-works have augmented spirituality with an impressive array of guest artists. This album has a few visitors, such as members of The Necks, but the focus is on Gira’s own poetry, delivered in layers of mystery, with the 11-minute title track a particular standout. Many fans and detractors thought Swans would have disbanded long ago, but the surprise is how consistently Gira can go to the creative well and never come up dry.


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