Label: Young God Release date: 27/09/10 Link: Amazon/ First off let me say that I am glad that Swans are back. It’s a little sad to see them Jarboe-less, but Michael Gira has always been the true mastermind, so it’s not too bad. Well, what has the band done since roughly 1997? Gira did his other projects like Angels of Light, and continued his Young God label’s history of Swans-related releases, including original master tapes for albums. That’s about it. So it’s about damn time that My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (henceforth abbreviated as My Father) came out. And my god how welcome it is, especially given the bizarre yet great last offering Soundtracks for the Blind. Well, they’ve all but ditched the post-rock and ambient style and by the sound of it, Gira wants to get that rawness back into the band. What My Father does is not so much mark a return but a synthesis of previous Swans incarnations, a sort of Voltron album for the venerable experimental band. Nothing here is quite as brutal as the early material from Gira (hell, nothing will ever live up to Filth’s raw drums), nor is any material as post-anything as the band’s output from The Burning World on. Instead, it’s focused on what Gira had done in the off time combined with those earlier Swans incarnations, often utilizing the former’s percussive force with the latter’s ear for songwriting, culminating in such epics as the nine and a half minute opener ‘No Words/No Thoughts.’ Gira sounds revitalized here, crooning at his richest baritone somewhere between White Light from the Mouth of Infinity and his material with Angels of Light at their most country laden (which is almost never). True, the album does drag a little with the one-two drag of ‘Reeling The Liars In’ and ‘Jim,’ but it’s the kind of slowdown that you want after the ambient tail of that first song. Each build up is as carefully concentrated and precise as the execution, with moments often ending in catharsis or simple delivery (check ‘Eden Prison’). It’s been stated before how this album manages to combine these aspects of old and new (I think Onion’s AV Club did that), but what has been understated is the choice of instrumentation. Whereas the band has never been afraid to use guitars next to copious noise from percussion and keys, here the focus is on more minimal aspects before utilizing those components to the nth degree. While Gira’s typical guitar is there, the emphasis on percussion has been greatened to the point where some songs sound like they took old Microphones percussion tracks and remixed them No Wave style. Most notable here is the inclusion of extended instrumental passages that would kindle memories of …Blind, but instead reside firmly rooted in the sonic trademarks of Cop or even A Screw, just with modern production. What happens as a result is nothing short of cataclysmic, like in ‘Inside Madeline’ where subtle yet powerful guitar lines and forceful drums thunder and sway for almost three minutes before the presence of violin is fully noted, transforming the piece into some weird Godspeed by Branca jam. Markedly different from those early discs, My Father tends to let songs sit and slowly burn instead of blister, often letting minutes pass by without making it seem so. It’s a tribute to Gira’s talent as a writer and the band’s skill to take parts that can be repeated for five minutes and make them seem propulsive enough to carry. I can wish for those early days to return, but the fact that Gira wants to calm down a bit is actually better. Swans have never been a band about staying the same, often changing styles for individual singles or albums before fully immersing themselves in a style. It’s always been evocative, brilliant music (some times more so than others), and here it’s the kind of music that is wholly great. If I must complain, then it’ll be that some songs could have been trimmed, but the choices make sense. This is hardly perfect, often feeling a bit too late but always enjoyable because, hell, it’s Swans. If you know anything about this band, you will agree that this is: Photobucket