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.