Swans were an influential American rock, experimental and post-industrial band active from 1982 to 1997, led by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira.
Swans were one of the few groups to emerge from the early '80s New York No Wave scene intact. Formed by Gira in 1982, 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 earliest known lineup of Swans comprised Gira on bass guitar and vocals, Jonathan Kane on drums, and Sue Hanel on guitar. 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."
Hanel did not stay long in the group, and by the time of their recording debut, she had been replaced by Bob Pezzola.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. The closest reference point to the early Swans sound, as pointed out by one internet reviewer, is probably The Birthday Party, although far less overtly satirical.
One of the trademarks of Swans' early period was playing at painfully loud volumes during concerts, to the point where some audience members would vomit or the police would stop the show. This lent a reputation to the name Swans which was one of the contributing factors in Gira's retirement of the band in 1997.
Children of God/ World of Skin (Deluxe 2CD Reissue)
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