Sunday, March 14, 2010

Swans - White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (1991)

| Post-Punk | Experimental Rock | Industrial |
| Neofolk | Noise Rock |

The opening track "Better Than You" almost says it all: Starting with the wail of an infant, then suddenly crashing into surging music that mixes quick, energetic drums with bells and other instruments, the song turns into a dramatic acoustic guitar/percussion piece with Gira's brooding voice and Jarboe's haunting backing; after some re-developments of the themes, it ends with a beautiful restatement of the sung section with additional guitar and bell sounds. At once incredibly destructive and astoundingly life-affirming -- and worth the entire Burning World album several times over -- "Better Than You" demonstrates that Swans had emerged from their major-label fiasco even more powerful and artistic than before, aiming for an awesome, all-encompassing majesty in their music that the admittedly hypnotic earlier versions of the band, in their brute forcefulness, simply could not have achieved. Interestingly, a number of players from Burning World and other Bill Laswell associates participate on White Light, but here Gira as sole producer marshals everyone's collective efforts to heights that Laswell either was unwilling or unable to do. Also notably, Westberg is all but absent on guitar, with new arrival Clinton Steele taking the fore as the major instrumentalist after Gira and Jarboe themselves. Picking out all the highlights from such a stunning disc is practically impossible, but three of the flat-out classic marvels here are: "You Know Nothing," with its simply lovely introduction and Gira's commanding singing; "Song for Dead Time," a gentle Jarboe-sung number filled out by a simple but effective string-synth arrangement; and "Failure," carried by a buried guitar strum, Gira's Sisyphean lyric, and brief, lush choruses. Simply put, this is out and out brilliant as the clear starting point for the second half of Swans' unique career.

Catalog: YGCD 3 (Young God Records)
Album Overview on Allmusic
Download (192kbps)

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