Swans (band)

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Swans are an influential American post-punk band initially active from 1982 to 1997, led by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira. The band was one of the few groups to emerge from the early 1980s New York No Wave scene and stay intact into the next decade. Formed by Gira in 1982, the Swans employed a shifting lineup of musicians until their dissolution in 1997. Besides Gira, the only other constant members were keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Jarboe from 1984 to 1997, and semi-constant guitarist Norman Westberg. The band was noted for droning vocals and strange instrumentation. In January 2010, Michael Gira reactivated Swans and released a new album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky on September 23, 2010.

Contents

Biography

Early years (1982–1985)

Initial influences

Gira always states he took the moniker Swans as it described the sound he wanted best. Gira's summation of the name follows along the lines of: "Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments."

The earliest known lineup of Swans comprised Gira on bass guitar and vocals, Jonathan Kane on drums, and Sue Hanel on guitar and either Thurston Moore, Dan Braun or Jon Tessler on 2nd bass. Jon Tessler also played percussion and tape loops. Hanel's only recordings with the group are on the compilation Body to Body, Job to Job, but the ambiguous personnel credits do not make it clear on which songs she performed; Kane stated that "Sue was the most fearsome guitarist we’d ever heard in New York. She was unbelievable."[4]

Hanel did not stay long in the group, and by the time of their recording debut, she had been replaced by Bob Pezzola. This lineup of the group also featured saxophonist Daniel Galli-Duani. The debut EP, Swans, released on Labor, is markedly different from anything they would do later. The plodding tempos and distorted, detuned guitar work is reminiscent of such post-punk outfits as Joy Division. However, the minimal chord structures owe more to blues, while the jazz instrumentation and awkward time signatures are evidence of Swans' roots in the No Wave scene of the late 1970s, which had more or less collapsed by the release of Cop.

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