SWANS, Venue Nightclub. Vancouver, September 6th 2016. by Rebecca Bruton

Increasingly I’ve been drawn to experimental genres that define ‘noise’ as a particular spatial and temporal organization of sound, rather than the more-narrow, rock-oriented definition of ‘music at a high volume’.   That said, the pain-threshold habit of most Noise compels me, and has been a prime factor in my attendance at live music events over the past year or so. Perhaps due to art school ruination, I’ve been more interested in the sensation of high-volume abstraction as it moves through my body than in the emotionally-oriented spectacle bliss of popular music genres. 

I don’t know very much about SWANS, but certain of my inspirational constellations seem to drift around Michael Gira’s work.  Deciding to purchase a ticket to their Vancouver show was largely an intuitive choice (helped along by the appearance of Baby Dee as opening act).

Witness to SWANS in their current incarnation, I was moved to experience a beautiful synergy of un-metered, non-harmonized ambience, the threateningly-felt (spinal realignment through the soles of my feet and the tip of my sternum), and the theatrically expressive (though I could have done without Gira’s messianic arm-raising).  It is wonderful when rock music uses its own electricity so specifically and so consciously - achingly slow harmonic enunciations lost in reverberation.  Feedback wails adorn the low-voiced screamer.  Bass guitar pitched to the drum, and both are amplified very, very loud.  Mostly, I never felt that any element was out of place - the high volume intrinsically belonged to a musical construction equal parts blues-descendant and heavy machinery.

 

Two quotes from Jair-Rohm Parker Wells by Rebecca Bruton

From THE WIRE 387, MAY 2016.  P. 31

'It's always the same: no one is going to market youbetter than you can market yourself.  It's a tough and unpleasant job.  Still, people need to take responsibility for their music if they're going to see anything happen with it.  Nothing good comes easy.  Digital distribution is the most consumer-friendly way to distribute music.  It's been a disaster for the sales.  At the same time, it has been great for live shows.  For the first time - possibly ever - it's possible for anyone to build an audience anywhere.  We'll win.  We always do.'

'Whether playing alone or in a group the most important technique is enlightened listening.  What's the difference between a band like Machine Gun and five persons playing in five different countries at the same time?  Machine Gun are listening and responding to each other, making sometimes monumental compositional decisions very quickly.  This differs from the listening one does in a 'conventional' ensemble: instead of just listening to blend or lock with the other players, your listening is extended to more intricate paramaters of analysis.  You analyse the current state of the ongoing composition (the improvisation) and use that information to decide what shape the composition will take next.  So the uninformed say 'improvisors just play anything,'...in the presence of enlightened listening, improvisation is an object-oriented, highly structured real-time process of recursive composition'.