Reviews

Swans “The Beggar” Album Review

The Beggar

Swans

  • Genre: Alternative
  • Date: 23 Jun, 2023
  • Content: Not-explicit
  • Track(s): 11
  • ℗ 2023 Young God Records LLC. under exclusive license to Mute Artists Limited

It is Swans’ twelfth album after Michael Gira reimagined the group in 2010, and their sixteenth studio album overall. Despite the departure of many, many things remain. Every song is plagued by the same oppressive feeling and unfathomably gorgeous slowness. Swans’ sound is like a never-ending storm. The sky continues getting darker.

One can practically hear the weight of history—its dizzying pull—as it was recorded at Candy Bomber in Berlin, a studio crammed with old gear situated on the site of the now-demolished Tempelhof Airport. The delivery of Gira’s songs is typically gloomy, and his lyrics are chock-full of strange revelations and presentiments.

Album Cover Art

Swans &Quot;The Beggar&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, November 28, 2023

A sketched diagram of the human heart is used as Swans’ album cover. While a small, almost obscure patch on the diagram is colored red, a larger section of the diagram gets mildly a dark shade. Whatever this may depict, it has to mean something to the band somehow.

Tracks and Features

Opening the LP and streaming versions of “The Parasite” (the vinyl track listing is entirely different), Gira’s existential doubts as well as dichotomies and conflicting forces are immediately apparent. Before a mid-track expansion of choral and instrumental layers has the tune hypnotically changed as the rest of the band fills out the sonic space, waves of sparse vocals and guitar ebb and flow.

“Paradise is Mine” follows, with its relentless marching clang that borders on sickening, while “Los: Angeles: City of Death” is the shortest but also the most punchy, with mounting tension and supporting singers propelling the effort ahead.

Gira asks “Without your eyes upon my weakness, will I forget where I begin?” on the title track, “The Beggar,” which has a cadence that is reminiscent of “Was He Ever Alive” from the early 1990s. It seems as though when he casts his mental gaze over the scene of his and the Swans’ previously recalled existence, tiny bits of the past become entangled with the Swans of the present.

Gira’s existential meditations in this chapter frequently have him contemplating his own mortality. “Am I ready to die?” On “Paradise is Mine,” he asks, “Is there really a mind?” while the rest of the band creeps along like a midnight predator. On “Michael Is Done,” he softly says, “When Michael goes, someone else will come.” When the other comes, Michael is done,” he says calmly, peering into the maw of the giant annihilator, as the band explodes in a victorious eruption of bells and angels.

The best track on the first album, “Ebbing,” starts out twinkling before changing into a sea shanty mode, vibrating, and slowly ascending to outer space with a plethora of backup vocalists. Even yet, the first disk drags on for far too long, ending with nothing particularly notable until the forty-four minute “The Beggar Lover (Three)” begins.

The band is in the flow of something bigger than the sum of its parts, therefore this effort is the entirety of the record in one (albeit very long) track. Female spoken word poetry, static blips, thunderous drumming, and throbbing hovering nightmare melodies all float in the background.

The band enters a drone and continues, occasionally shrieking and other times letting young children sing nursery rhymes. One of the strongest musical sections on the album follows, and a trance vibe naturally develops as jazzy drums guide the swirling spacey playing. Even at 45 minutes, it seems like it might go on forever.

Tracklist

NOTITLETIME
1The Parasite8:27
2Paradise is Mine9:23
3Los Angeles: City of Death3:29
4Michael is Done6:08
5Unforming5:55
6The Beggar10:15
7No More of This6:55
8Ebbing11:04
9Why Can’t I Have What I Want Any Time That I Want?7:38
10The Beggar Lover (Three)43:51
11The Memorious8:38

Album Theme

Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, claimed that the only thing that is permanent in life is change. Where are the boundaries if everything is always evolving and has no distinct identity? Where do the limits exist? In Gira’s writing, this existential questioning is a recurrent theme.

Production Credits

Michael Gira produced the album.

Stream

Back to top button