Archive for September, 2018

Alt-Classic

I’m hugely looking forward to this. My three all-time favourite albums, the ur-text of my tastes, are Nirvana In Utero, Sonic Youth A Thousand Leaves and Swans Soundtracks For The Blind. There’s something about the teenage moment that can never be reproduced when it comes to impact.

On Sunday 23rd, at the Shacklewell Arms (see below for website/location) I’m in attendance to hear the¬† entire 140 minutes of pure genius that is Swans Soundtracks For The Blind¬†over a cheerful pint or two. I admit I’m curious to consume it over the sound system at the venue, to see if it helps me peel back a few layers and find something my own stereo doesn’t quite get to. With an album I’ve lived with for some two decades it’s a moment like this where I can hear with fresh ears, step outside of my usual distracted home state and into a room where this is the core of my attention, stand in a place where I’m not bothered about thrashing the neighbours with sound and really absorb it. I’m looking forward to going to the opposite end of the spectrum from the private headphones in the dark experience.

https://www.shacklewellarms.com/info

This is part of an ongoing, and deeply wicked, series run by Michael Brooks bringing together those who love an album, those who are just curious, those who fancy a (free!) night out on a Sunday with good music and a touch of bonhomie.

Why Soundtracks For The Blind? In my view it’s still Swans finest hour – and I say that in spite of my admiration for the past four albums. This was 1996, building dense layers of ambient sound in studio was still in its infancy, and there’s a physicality to the process Michael Gira and Chris Griffin had to go through to realise these results. Post-rock, in the form of bands like Mogwai or Godspeed, hadn’t quite taken off yet, so this kind of widescreen, orchestral approach to sound – something way beyond jam-band noodling – was near new. The source materials elide the entirety of Swans history into one album, most overtly in the form of Jarboe’s take on ‘Your Property’, but also in the use of aging tape loops, outtake material, the new set being played by the 1995 era band as laid to tape in a west coast studio at the close of the U.S. leg of the tour for The Great Annihilator. To this day, I think Swans is the only band to work successfully at a double CD scale: this is a coherent album experience, something requiring a journey rather these gross ‘album as compilation to be self-curated and deleted’ releases that seem to fill a lot of chart time to an increasing degree.

https://www.shacklewellarms.com/events/2018-09-23-swans-soundtracks-for-the-blind-listening-session-the-shacklewell-arms

I’ve agreed to introduce the album, provide reading from the book to contextualise its creation, to locate it in time and space…before we’re all sucked into its all-consuming maw of sound where we’ll dwell for just over two hours. Weightless, fleshless, devoid of physical form – at the mercy of pure experience. Wonderful.

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https://blank-slate-creative.com/2018/09/swans-sacrifice-and-transcendence-book-release/

Was rather gratified to see this go up today! Part of being a writer is not just ‘writing stuff’, it’s trying to make sure that people even know the words are there. Sure, no writer wants to be a marketing person too – which is ultimately what this spell of a book entails – but there’s still fun to be had.

For a start, the individuals working in music and arts journalism are passionate: there’s little money to be had in the field so these are people who do it because they love it. It’s a genuinely energising intervention in a day to receive responses from people who have much to say about music, who feel your work might offer something to them and to their audiences, who believe in what you have done or are doing.

Personally, I also enjoy what I call ‘the hunt’. When I’m preparing a book a lot of what I do is track people down – find ways to get in touch with them. It’s precisely the same process with the media. Which outlets are out there? Who would be best to speak to? How could you contact that person? How do you make sure they know you have thought about them, that you’re aware of their work, that you’re not just spamming them?

https://luminousdash.com/boek-swans-en-michael-gira/

Very kindly, the crew at Luminous Dash in Belgium also shared the press release piece. Press releases, I try very hard because I want them to have some energy and excitement to them…But they’re also generic in some ways – it’s a balancing act. I’m delighted when people broadcast the press release. The next stages up are book reviews, then there are interviews about the book, extracts from the book, the video piece PopMatters permitted was a new innovation for me, then articles/other content surrounding the book – one magazine has asked me to do a ‘my worst records ever’ piece!