“A Little God In My Hands” & “Oxygen” Swans


A Little God In My Hands and Oxygen Track Reviews

Young God, Mute Records

Released 2013 (Oxygen), March 21, 2014 (A Little God In My Hands)

Genre: Experimental Rock, Noise Rock, Art Rock, No Wave

Upon opening up the new Swans track “Oxygen” on YouTube, I noticed several suggested videos on the sidebar such as “I Fell Down The Stairs,” “So Much Pain! – Vlog #49” and “HOTEL CHOKE SLAM”. I’m not sure what the correlation between Swans and, what seems to be, view-hungry YouTube vloggers is but the titles could not be more fitting to the two previews from the record To Be Kind due out next month.

     “A Little God In My Hands” is a spontaneously noisy screech fest. The sudden bleak, destructive choruses (if you could call them that) are colored with distortion and feedback, which easily make them the most interesting parts of the track. The best word to describe the constant background groove under the bursts of noise is creeping; the bass line makes you want to walk in with dramatic Scooby-Doo-like steps to each quarter note and the piano starting in the second verse seems outright evil under Michael Gira’s yelled, schizo vocals.  Unlike “A Little God In My Hands”, the track unravels very linearly. Layer by layer is introduced until the mix is filled with blaring guitar, scratchy hi-hats and deadly horns in the latter half. Everything concludes in the end with a monstrous beating on every instrument.

“Oxygen” has a similar tone and gets even more groovy. For something as loud and rude as it is, “Oxygen” sounds like a demented funk rock song somewhere between James Brown and The Jesus LizardThe tracks are a definite kick in the face, especially after The Seer from 2012. The abusive repetition is still there, but the delivery and structure couldn’t be any more different. The fact that there seems to be structure at all puts these aspects miles ahead of The Seer, in terms of accessibility and dare I say, enjoyability. I did enjoy The Seer but I also found myself mentally forcing my brain and body to endure the two hour, two disc mind-number. These two tracks find themselves totaling about 15 minutes and although that is brief for Swans recent work, it is incredibly refreshing. Instead of drone soundscaping, Swans have taken a delightful noise-filled rhythmic approach that expands on the grittier sound of their earlier work.

These two sneak peaks are making everyone rightfully antsy for this new album and I would not be surprised if “HOTEL CHOKE SLAM” is one of the phrases Gira hollers over some chugged chords somewhere on it.




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