Home Read Albums Of The Week: Swans | The Beggar

Albums Of The Week: Swans | The Beggar

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The Beggar was recorded and mixed at Candy Bomber Studio in Berlin, engineered by Ingo Krauss and mastered by Doug Henderson at Micro-Moose, Berlin. The album was written and produced by Michael Gira and features contributions from recent and former Swans, members of Angels of Light and Guest Swan Ben Frost.

“After numerous pandemic-induced cancellations of tours for the previous Swans album Leaving Meaning, and an apparent bottomless pit of waiting, waiting, waiting, and the strange disorientation that came with this sudden but interminable forced isolation I decided it was time to write songs for a new Swans album and forget about everything else,” Gira says. “They came relatively easily, always informed by the suspicion that these could be my last. When I finally was able to travel, songs in hand, to Berlin to work with my friends recording this record, the feeling was akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from black and white to color. Now I’m feeling quite optimistic. My favourite color is pink. I hope you enjoy the album.”

Primary contributors to The Beggar:

Michael Gira: Vocals, words, acoustic guitar, production. Gira started Swans in N.Y.C. in 1982 and has been the primary songwriter, singer and producer throughout the years. During the band’s hiatus from 1999 to 2010, he released several albums by and toured with a group called Angels Of Light. Gira recently published a book of his short stories, journals, and words for music, called The Knot. He lives in New Mexico.

Kristof Hahn: Lap steel, various guitars, vocals. Kristof first joined Swans in 1989. He was a principal contributor to Angels Of Light and a core Swans member from 2010 to 2017. Kristof’s other musical ventures have included the noir-rock band Les Hommes Sauvages and Kool Kings (with Alex Chilton). When not making music, Kristof translates books. He lives in Berlin.

Larry Mullins: Drums, vibes, orchestral percussion, Mellotron, various keyboards, backing vocals. Larry is a trained symphonic percussionist. He played through the ’90s with Iggy Pop and later with The Stooges. He played with Swans in the late ’90s and was a main contributor to Angels Of Light. His current main job is playing drums with The Bad Seeds. Larry lives in Berlin.

Dana Schechter: Bass guitar, lap steel, keyboards, vocals, piano. Dana played bass in and was a core member of Angels Of Light. She subsequently released music and toured as Bee and Flower. Her current band is the power duo Insect Ark. Dana is an animator and designer in the film industry and currently lives in Berlin.

Christopher Pravdica: Bass guitar, sounds, keyboards, vocals. Chris played bass as a core Swans member from 2010 to 2017. Chris has played with The Gunga Din, Flux Information Sciences, Xiu Xiu, Yonatan Gat, Medicine Singers and has a project of his own called We Owe. Chris is a sound designer and lives in Brooklyn.

Phil Puleo: Drums, percussion, vocals, piano, exotic wind instruments. Phil played drums with Swans in the late ’90s, was a core member from 2010 to 2017, and contributed to Angels Of Light. Phil’s early N.Y.C. musical venture was Cop Shoot Cop and has since played with Human Impact, among others. Phil is an extremely talented illustrator and lives in Chicago.

Ben Frost: Guitar, synthesizers, sound manipulations. In his own work, Ben’s adventurous sound craftings are sometimes harrowing and sometimes delicate and quite musical. His numerous albums and his powerful live shows have afforded him much recognition. He is also an accomplished composer and arranger of music for film and television. He lives in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Backing vocals are provided by Jennifer Gira, Lucy Kruger and Laura Carbone.

Initially notorious for their relentless, brutal, high-volume onslaughts of sound, the extreme, abject imagery of Gira’s lyrics and his thundering vocals, Swans would undergo a series of startling transformations over the first decade-plus of their existence. Following the punishing Filth and Cop albums, the ensemble would venture into harshly mechanical proto-industrial rock of their Greed period, then both haunted atmospheric idylls and martial stomps on 1987’s landmark Children of God double album. They’d conjure gentler acoustic-based meditations on The Burning World (1989), then relocated to Atlanta to create the grand, melody-dense sonic whirlwinds of White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (1991) and Love Of Life (1993), becoming more dissonant and sharp-edged with The Great Annihilator (1994). Finally, the ultimate statement of that epoch of Swans, Soundtracks For The Blind (1996), incorporated all of these elements across well over two hours of music.

At this point, Gira called it quits after 15 years of non-stop recording and touring, disbanding the group. For the next 13 years, he’d make a long series of acclaimed albums and perform live extensively with a revolving roster of musicians under the name Angels Of Light. Gira also discovered, produced and released albums by other musicians through his label Young God Records. He cultivated such talents as Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family, among other original figures of the late 00’s Avant-folk movement.

In 2010 he reactivated Swans, releasing the studio album My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky to ecstatic critical response and touring the world for the better part of a year. The Seer, a triple-album studio set, came out in 2012 and was celebrated by another lengthy world tour eliciting more media praise and album sales that landed the album on the Billboard Top 200. Swans’ next release To Be Kind (another triple vinyl) debuted at No. 36 on the Billboard Top 200 Sales Chart and No. 5 on their Independent Sales Chart. The group sold out 47 concert dates in their subsequent tour, including two-night stands in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Paris. The album garnered enormous praise from the press. The Glowing Man (2017) (also triple vinyl) was the last studio release by this incarnation of Swans. With 2019’s Leaving Meaning, the 15th studio album, Gira returned to working with a fluid supporting cast of musicians once again.”