By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
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Working with bands such as Angels of Light, World of Skin, and, most famously, Swans — not to mention what he describes as enough collaborators to fill a small stadium — postpunk pioneer Michael Gira has been experimenting with sonic extremes for more than three decades.
In the days following the New York No-Wave scene of the late '70s, Swans — Gira's most critically celebrated and commercially successful endeavor — made a name for itself as a furious progenitor of experimental American rock. The band's signatures: tortured guitar drones; industrial, guttural percussion; and the maniacal howling of Gira, the group's frontman and lone constant.
But the careful listener knows Gira isn't always about crushing volume, Swans included. In fact, pressed to discuss contemporary sounds, Gira immediately name-drops Lykke Li, the Knife, and Fever Ray. "I've noticed there's a lot of interesting music coming out of Sweden," Gira says. He particularly enjoys those electro-pop acts for "the great singing."
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While tracks such as "Reeling the Liars In" — from the recently reformed Swans' first full-length in more than ten years, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky — are a far cry from the spunk of Lykke Li or the digital epics of Fever Ray, Gira's newest work is still indicative of his broad sonic palette. And even though Gira put Swans on hold to take a break from the pounding, he seems to be realizing more every day that extremes are that much more extreme when split with a little silence.