Swans – The Gate (2015)

May 31, 2023
Swans – The Gate (2015)

I saw Swans on every UK tour that they did between 2010 and the end of the “trilogy” line up in 2017 (or 2018 – I forget). I got a copy of every live album they did too off the back of these experiences (except Deliquescence, which had sold out by the time the tour date nearest me rolled around, goddamn it).

You could easily argue that The Gate captures “peak Swans”, who are at this point nuts deep in touring the To Be Kind record and are developing the huge slabs of noise that would soon become The Glowing Man. Whilst The Glowing Man is my favourite of the three trilogy studio albums for capturing this live essence the best, the Glowing Man songs in their rawer more unhinged forms here are equally as amazing if not moreso. Whilst the live funk of “A Little God In My Hands” offers a much snazzier live version of the song, tracks like “Frankie M” and “Bring The Sun / Black-Eyed Man” (which are both nearly half-hour long) are absolutely momental pieces of music that in this current form on this record are some of the greatest pieces of music Swans ever recorded – in fact, ANY artist has recorded.

For the two tracks mentioned above, this CD is worth the price of entry alone. I was lucky enough to buy this at retail price from Young God Records but I’m going to soon shell out for a physical copy of Deliquescence (the ultimate Swans live album IMO) because the quality on these discs is just absolutely absurdly good. I recently relistened to The Gate in my car at an incredibly unreasonable volume, and it was one hell of an experience.

There are some points here that make The Gate far from absolute perfection, however. The track “Apostate / Cloud Of Unforming”, which went on to become The Glowing Man’s “Cloud Of Unknowing”, at least in this current form, drags far too long and relies too heavily on the residual “The Apostate” melody / motif that it is built around (many 2010s era Swans songs are created in this way – from ashes of other pieces). “The Apostate” in it’s original form(s) was a part of 2012’s The Seer and a highlight of live sets from that time.

Similarly, the demo tracks tacked onto the end of the CD version do leave a bit to be desired. I understand that the majority of the Swans material is concieved on the live stages (unlike say, My Father…. which had a stunning demos album in the form of I Am Not Insane), but there is not much to work with here. The quality of the Gira-sung version of “When Will I Return?” (his wife Jennifer sings the album version) leaves a lot to be desired, and the majority of the other demos are not even really worth writing about. There is an exception of course, and that is the excellent acoustic version of “Finally, Peace”. “Finally, Peace” is one of my favourite songs by Swans, and a stunning and fitting end to the trilogy of mammoth albums that this era of Swans brought us. In fact, if Swans’ studio output ended permanently with this track then I would have been more than happy. So, hearing this beautiful song here in its raw acoustic form once again after all these years was a real treat.

“Your glorious mind…. your glorious mind….”

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