For all the problems artists have found with file sharing and streaming services, the Internet has been fairly kind to a handful of ‘unaccessible’ artists like Scott Walker, and especially Swans, whose popularity and stature has increased manyfold in spite of releasing 2-hour long records with songs that break the 30-minute mark (and without dumb guitar solos). This runs completely counter to the idea that people now have to digest information in small scattershot bits in order to catch on and still lends me a few glimmers of hope in humanity and culture. Of course it helps that their last two records are arguably the finest they’ve made in their 30+ year history. Making things seemingly more troublesome is that, when Swans toured for The Seer, by the end of the tour most of their set comprised of new, unrecorded material, much of which became To Be Kind. Word has it they’re going about this tour in a similar fashion, already working out a number of new pieces that may well become the next record. Michael Gira has stated that his mission within music is not dour anguish (as the dark and violent nature of their music may lead listeners to believe) but ecstasy. Dynamic and meticulous orchestrations like the rise and fall of civilizations manage to keep their droning dirge-like incantations vital and unpredictable. Let you be warned that ecstasy of this order and ambition happens at VERY LOUD VOLUMES, but it just might change your life.
Carla Bozulich is another long-time road worn veteran of underground music who’s finding herself at a creative peek. I caught her show with Evangelista at the Sunset a couple of years ago, bittersweet as she played to a crowd of about 25. I had to hug her twice after the show, and I hate touching people, such was the state of my amazement and elation. She’s long bemoaned her tours of the U.S., finding herself in many similar venues with similar crowds, barely making enough for gas, but Europe has treated her far better. Her latest record, Boy, has garnered almost unanimous rave reviews and, in my opinion, should put her in the same conversation as Nick Cave and Tom Waits as eminent boundary-pushing songwriting entities. She called Boy her ‘pop’ record, and you’ll indeed find things on the record that sound like traditionally structured songs with verses and choruses as such, but Katy Perry it ain’t. Industrial clatter, haunting skeletons of folk melodies buried under reverb, and noisy guitar work keep the record aesthetically rooted in her no-wave meets folk-country tendencies. This is a dream pairing if there ever was one, and hopefully playing sold-out 1,000 person venues opening for the venerable Swans will help bring her the crowds to meet her accolades.