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Albums of the Year: Swans - The Glowing Man | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year: Swans - The Glowing Man

Albums of the Year: Swans - The Glowing Man

Michael Gira calls time on the latest Swans line-up with a career high. Plus Soulwax and Bosco Rogers

Glowing Man: a magnificent, if disturbed, beauty

2016 was the year that US underground titan Michael Gira began to wind down the current “iteration” of long-standing musical mavericks Swans and their final album, The Glowing Man, proved to be no whimpering exit. Intense and challenging sounds that still manage to convey a magnificent, if disturbed, beauty characterise the band’s swan song and it’s one that doesn’t let the quality dip for over two hours  – despite several tracks of over 20 minutes.

Lyrics often remain half-heard over a sonic palette that moves from dreamy but dark psychedelia to menacing Gothic country blues and beyond. While the epic and terrible “Frankie M” and dark folk of “When Will I Return?” are more than fitting epitaphs for such musical giants, the title track is the shining highlight of The Glowing Man. A long, drawn-out apocalyptic blues that builds and fades away before developing into a forceful motorik groove, it’s a shamanic force of nature and well worth the entrance price on its own.

Swans, however, weren’t the only ones producing top-notch work in 2016. Soulwax’s soundtrack for Belgica was a work of genius that might have anyone assuming that the album was a compilation featuring 15 very different artists. In fact, it was entirely written and produced by the Belgian experimentalists but, while the sounds shift from one unrelated musical style to another, Belgica never sounds clunky but flows seamlessly from one cracker to another. Meanwhile, Anglo-French duo Bosco Rogers’ Post Exotic is a lively twist on the Monkees’ good grooves with a bucket load of swagger and the knowing smirk, sun-drenched harmonies and catchy, fuzzy guitars.

Kuro’s set at the Supersonic Festival Launch Party was my gig of the year. An earthy drone of violin, bass, electronics and a pile of effects boxes turned out to be an unexpected treat with atmospheric and cinematic loops with intense crescendos and bursts of feedback. It was a set that defied easy pigeonholing but had a sizeable crowd enthralled and saw me scuttling to the merchandise stall for a copy of their debut album. My track of the year, however, was Barry Adamson’s “Up in the Air”. Infinitely more digestible than Swans and Kuro, this sassy piece of cinematic soul was more than enough to reinstate the Moss Side Jazz Devil as the coolest cat in town.

Two More Essential Albums from 2016:

Soulwax – Belgica (Original Soundtrack)

Bosco Rogers – Post Exotic

Gig of the Year:

Kuro at the Supersonic Festival Launch Party

Track of the Year:

Barry Adamson – "Up In The Air"

Overleaf: watch the video of “Up in the he Air” by Barry Adamson

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