In a recent interview, Michael Gira described the inspiration for his song writing as ‘the fear of living a pointless life’. As if seminal artwork from orchestrated art songs in ‘Angels of light’, and sonic groove soundscapes in ‘Swans’ (as well as authoring countless novels) wasn’t already testimony to a life anything other than pointless, Gira’s solo shows have often been reviewed as intense, dark and life affirming. Not much chance of apathy here then.
Challenging himself to interpret a catalogue of work, firmly established as substituting melodies for raw power and aggressive playing (whilst also holding the record as the loudest live act of all time) Gira is on fine form using an acoustic guitar, a sole voice, and his driven intensity to recreate the emotion which has always been central to his creative work. Instead of relying on the feedback and chord sustainment used in his traditional style of electric guitar playing, Gira uses organically interpretations, and in the moment improvisations, to provide the musical background to his poetic, highly personal, tales of darkness, loneliness and self-abuse. Immersed in the moment of his playing, Gira takes himself, seemingly, into dark memories to deliver a type of performance that is heartfelt, powerful and shocking. The combination of acoustic, free-flowing, playing mixed with his baritone voice and performance art delivery is suitably unnerving and deeply thought provoking; carrying the message of his work from noise-rock into a more quiet, almost folk, world. Perhaps the real question to ask is not can Gira recreate his world, but how long can the audience stay in such a dark, damaged, place.
In late 2017 Gira announced a step back, and a ‘rethinking’, of Swans. Between now and the rethinking we can be more than content with the art we are presented with, it’s anything but pointless.