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Swans: My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

After “No Words/No Thoughts,” the first song on SwansMy Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, it’s hard to keep listening. The song isn’t bad; rather, it’s a 10-minute mini-epic that swells and blossoms and implodes so apocalyptically, it’s hard to imagine what could follow. But Michael Gira has imagination to spare, and the Swans leader pushes impossibly deeper into folk, noise, and Armageddon gospel throughout the remainder of My Father. The full-length is the group’s first since 1996, and although singer-keyboardist Jarboe is absent, Gira and longtime guitarist Norman Westberg have sired a leviathan of an album. It resembles all of Swans’ previous work, yet none of it: “Reeling The Liars In” is a righteous, vindictive hymn, while “My Birth” is a crushing pulse of existential lightlessness. Gira, his voice as grim and stentorian as ever, sings of sin and prayer, but those poles keep wandering—and when his former protégé Devendra Banhart duets with Gira’s 3-year-old daughter on the droning, yawing “You Fucking People Make Me Sick,” the result chills bones. The disc’s most horrific revelation is that Gira himself may be its titular father, and that his chain of harrowing songs is the rope he’s dangling earthward. Where it leads, and who dares to climb it, is irrelevant; the fact that it so dizzyingly hangs between spirituality and perversion, austerity and decadence, is enough.


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