Carla Bozulich has always been an odd one. I mean that in the best way. Touring with a trio, which she says is incredibly difficult for her material, she began the show hopping around on stage as a menacing loop starts. If that sounds conflicting that’s because it was.
“Is my head bleeding?” she inquired after the first couple of songs.
“Play guitar! It’s awesome!” She retorted to herself.
Throughout the set, one of her band members moved back and forth from percussion to electric musical saw, at one point doubling her vocal melody, producing one of the most enthralling sonic affectations of the evening.
Swans built their set off of mostly new material, presumably for the next record. When they called upon material already released, they never went further back than The Seer. Their new material took a bit longer to unfold than the material on To Be Kind and The Seer. “Frankie M” opened the show with untold minutes of hypnotic percussion work, moving to a full band drone, and climaxing in a full but non-brutal way. Being at the foot of the stage I could watch Gira directly above, with his intense glares, smirks, and silent gestures. Those cued his charges, and he often lost himself in spasmodic dances, speaking in tongues like a Pentecostal raising of the spirits. Another new one, “Don’t Go” was the most delicate and beautiful of the night. If the new material hints at the overall direction of the new record, I’d say expect a quieter, mournful and melodic affair.
Both Carla Bozulich and Swans have developed over the years a distinct ability to take traditional folk and blues, collapse the forms on themselves, and reconstruct them into visions that uniquely mirror people’s divisions of sacred and profane, the tainting of one with the other, and the desire for the other when embracing one. Much like the saw, whose original purpose was destroyed and reappropriated, these two artists are masters of taking sound and form, ripping them from their original aesthetic and purpose, and infusing them with an entirely different mission and vitality. These are two of our most important artists working today. Ignore at your own loss.