The experimental rock band Swans is one that has always tried to change its sound to stay unique. “leaving meaning.,” released Oct. 25, keeps this trend up in the best possible way. The prerelease single “Its Coming Its Real” heralded the coming of this album with a literal title.
Headed by multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira and ever-rotating cast of musicians, Swans was formed in New York City in 1982. A product of the no wave scene and one of the few bands from that era that remains active, Swans has been constantly moving from genre to genre over the year from noise rock to post-rock.
“Hums,” the first song, stays short and sweet at a running time of two minutes with a beautiful composition of overlapping instrumentals. The instrumentals consist mainly of a soothing piano melody overlaid with electronic noise samples that fade in and out just as fast as they appeared.
This song segues perfectly into the second song, “Annaline,” which continues to build the tension from “Hums” but with a more varied and interesting composition. Where “Hums” shows beauty in simplicity, “Annaline” attempts to capture the beauty of complexity. The song is about the reevaluating life after a big event, more specifically the birth of a child. As shown in these lyrics, “Right here and right now / The first night of our life / Well, I’m somewhere in you / And I’ll never get out.” The lyrics, from the perspective of parents and their unborn child, are about transitioning from an old life into a new one.
One of the biggest this record is the hypnotic melodies and instrumentals that draw the audience into the piece. Its rhythm is repetitive and constantly builds toward something beyond itself. This style of rhythm carries all the way from the beginning to the true climax of the album: the album’s 10th, “Some New Things.”
“Some New Things” comes right after the pre-released single “It’s Coming It’s Real” and completes the prophecy laid by the title of its predecessor. It marks the switch from mostly instrumental to more chaotic, disturbing vocals. The linear structure of this song makes it feel less repetitive than the earlier songs on the album.
After this climax, the album doesn’t falter and finishes beautifully with “What Is This” and “My Phantom Limb.” These songs keep up the chaotic vocals from “Some New Things” and the harmonious rhythm of the rest of the record. The theme of starting a new life is captured wholly by the last two songs, which are mainly about the joy that comes from change and one’s connection to the past.
The album only one notable flaw, that being the tendency for songs to drag on a bit too long, except for “Hums.” This makes the album feel a bit bloated and a few minutes too long. Despite this, “leaving meaning.” is still a joy to listen to. Every part of “leaving meaning.” is intriguing and disturbing in its slow and melancholic production.
“leaving meaning.” is streamable on Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube Music.