# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Swans - White Light from the Mouth of Infinity/ Love of Life

  by Erick Mertz

published: 21 / 2 / 2016

Swans - White Light from the Mouth of Infinity/ Love of Life
Label: Young God Records
Format: CD Box


Excellent reissue on three CD box set, including an additional CD of live tracks and demos, of New York-based experimentalists Swans' early 1990s studio albums, 'White Light from the Mouth of Infinity' and 'Love of Life'

If you’ve never heard Swans before, this review may make the difference between you picking up one of their albums, and changing your life for the better, forever. If you don’t, that bullshit omission from aural expansion falls square on your head. If you don’t know the Swans sound, the pioneering experimental hard rock/no wave New York City band cuts a difficult swath through the post rock/post punk pantheon. They are quite hard to categorize, analogs crumbling like ancient porcelain beneath a well-polished jackboot. They come across as more literate than Mogwai, but share the same indulgent, dark ambience; they are more aggressive than Nation of Ulysses but, at least in studio album form, they are far more austere as songwriters. On a visceral level, listening to the Swans for the first time is like stopping in for a mid-afternoon drink at a dank, logger bar off the main road and running into an army of crusty, cabin bound punks who have been sitting up for days on speed reading William Faulkner short stories and drinking moonshine. There is madness, erudition, accessible on an emotional level, and when you walk away your guts are irrevocably churned. Entry points for the Swans can be anywhere. Their vast catalogue is a rich array, the idea of an essential out with the dusk light. This lush, three-disc deluxe edition of 'White Light from the Mouth of Infinity'/'Love of Life' may well be ideal. The albums were released in the early 1990s, falling in the middle of the band’s three decades long run, in the glowering days before the band crumbled to pieces and went on an unfortunate hiatus. Taking the later chronological album first, 'Love of Life' has long been out- of-print. This re-issue marks the first time it’s been made readily available since its release in the winter of 1992. Anecdotally, this is a sad album, bleary-eyed, so effervescent of genuine woe that when my wife heard it for the first time on a car ride into the hills, she remarked, “This is sad”. How many albums get that description off the bat? Not many, the preferred parlance “depressing” or a “downer” which is why perhaps this album is my favourite Swans release of any before or after. The album is comprised of songs, hard psychedelic rock and a fire and brimstone take on folk, but also it features curious interviews, unnamed contributors telling snippet stories about deer slaying and juvenile delinquency, a real dour look at an oft-neglected sliver of real humanity. If 'Love of Life' is the box set’s black sheep then 'White Light from the Mouths of Infinity' offers what passes as proper, conventional song craft. The album is overfull, thirteen robust songs each one longer than four and a half minutes. When people describe an album as challenging, this is precisely what they mean – challenging, but on closer examination and exploration, rewarding. Quick, sweeping tempos mark its pace. The mood is full of barbaric groans and accents with spaghetti western flavors. There are few sonic vistas Swans don’t push on 'White Light from the Mouths of Infinity'. For what one might call conventional, there is no truly signature approach, whether it’s the grease streaked arrogance of 'Better Than You' or delicate guitars backed with haunting, warbling strings on 'Song for Dead Time' or the electric guitars drowning out the Biblical imagery of snakes and temptation on 'Love Will Save You', the Swans defy categorization; they are, in fact, their own singular entity with regards to genre. Founder and front man, Michael Gira always comes across like a preacher, the kind of voice you find on an obscure radio station, while night driving through a fly-over state. Turn on the abrasive 'Failure' and you’re forced to really listen, to question, to choose a side as Gira always forces you to do. His vocals are amongst the most commanding of his contemporaries, always harrowing, creating a new anti-pastoral tone. Spin through the live versions and instrumentals on the third disc, you’ll feel unprecedented power. Even the demo versions of their songs prove riveting backdrop to your darkest mood.

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