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In 2010, Michael Gira resurrected Swans after fourteen years of inactivity with My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, which blended the gospel overtones of 1987’s Children of God with his more recent work in Angels of Light. The Seer followed two years later, further bridging the gap between the two artistic statements while taking a noticeably harder edge that drew more from Swans, especially their White Light from the Mouth of Infinity/Love of Life period in the early ’90s. 2014’s To Be Kind further lessened traces of Angels of Light for a darker, heavier sound that could be considered the sum of Swans from origin to present. Now, Gira takes it even further, delivering Swans’ most monolithic statement to date.
Clocking in at just under two hours with eight songs, The Glowing Man shines with intensity while pushing drone and minimalism to their extremes. “Cloud of Forgetting” opens with the now-patented Swans quiet boom, building to an agonized, lumbering, furious passion recalling Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham. The following “Cloud of Unknowing” rises from atmospheric expanse to glaring intensity and back, ebbing and flowing like some other-dimensional symphonic sea. On “The World Looks Red/The World Looks Black,” Gira reclaims lyrics he gave to Sonic Youth for their full-length debut, 1983’s Confusion Is Sex, giving them his proper treatment with a pulse resembling Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Can, then explodes as an otherworldly choir. “People Like Us” ends the first disc on angelic swamp blues.
“Frankie M” begins part two with an ominous, dissonant choral introduction that erupts into early Velvet Underground bombast via Terry Riley before a guitar riff shifts the song toward Lou Reed’s Transformer, particularly “Satellite of Love.” Gira’s wife, Jennifer, takes the lead vocal on “When Will I Return?,” an impassioned celebration of surviving a brutal attack. Finally, the near thirty-minute title track arrives, the moment everything before it has led to where the ethereal meets the volume head on and creates an atom-smashing explosion that decimates everything around it, then settles on a tight krautrock groove to get us out of this plane of existence once and for all. “Finally Peace,” a gospel-country show tune, serves as the epilogue, allowing us to land gracefully after such a harrowing journey.
Michael Gira says this will be the last Swans album featuring this current lineup. He could not have ended it any better. On to the next phase of Swans.
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