Year in Ears 2014 #13

Best Double Act of Relentless Churning To Completely Different Effects

September 1, 2014
Swans and Carla Bozulich
The Independent, San Francisco

Carla opened with collaborator JHNO and Lisa Gamble reinventing saw, drums and electronics, for me a totally riveting voice in that trio. I was delighted to see Carla return to a higher profile venue in the Bay Area and sad to see Carla return to a higher profile venue in the Bay Area. The problem was that the setting was literally higher: on a stage. I’ve learned that some essential part of Carla’s performance eventually takes place on the same level as the audience. Add the trials of opening band sound engineering and a small agony began to grow over this set, by turns reaching and recoiling its connection between us all. There is a lesson about expectation in it that I’m still uncovering.

Apropos of expectation, it took over 20 minutes for Swans to introduce a tonal pulse into Frankie M, the opening song in their set. I was hoping they would take at least another 20 minutes to end that restrained, incessant quarter note hit because, surprisingly, no one in the audience had dropped out yet. That fact was giving me Real Hope, the likes of which I had not experienced for ages. This was not the sort of not-dropping-out I’m used to, which is usually the attentiveness of geezers (like myself) who remember the bad behavior / extremity of a band back in the day and wait, just short of prayer, for it to occur again, and that takes extreme focus. This was just 400 Swans fans going someplace together, and that place seemed to be under the absolute direction of Michael Gira. That first song was nearly as long as Carla’s entire set.

A recording hasn’t surfaced. Makes the memory that much more intense.