Missy Lorelei is impressed with the recent gig at St Andrews in the Square.
“Come here often?”
Well, this is unexpected- cheeky banter from Michael Gira, frontman of notorious American alt-noiseniks Swans, a band from the late 70s and beyond so pulverising that they became (in)famous for loosening bowels and scrambling minds.
Not that his charming between-song remarks mean age has softened him- indeed, I believe he has invented a whole new genre: acoustic pummelling.
After lovely, if soporific support from Early Songs, Diamond Catalog and Grouper, his solo appearance as part of the mini-festival Counterflows (taking place across six venues over one weekend) is really special, the rarefied setting of St Andrews providing a neat space for his nihilistic savage songs of lust, paranoia and seeking some form of redemption.
Framed by a halo of light, Gira snarls, beating his acoustic guitar like the bodies of all who would stand in his way- he is both serial killer and preacherman.
Oxygen from 2010’s I Am Not Insane is suffocating in its intensity, revisiting the old themes of torture and mortality, Blind is hypnotic anti-country and Two Women which he describes as a “love song” (ha!) has the panther prowl of Lou Reed in his pomp yet is uniquely Gira- disturbing, thrilling and sees him howling like a trapped wounded animal trying to gnaw off a hind leg to escape. We even get She Lives! From classic Swans album The Great Annihilator stripped back, bones exposed.
If the Apocalypse is coming, Gira is leading the way- torch, lube and bottle of JD packed.
No Chucklevision theme then, but songs that sound like the end of the world…and the start of a new one.