Before Swans leader M. Gira officially folded his eternally dark
group last year with the release of their, um, double-disc swan song,
Soundtracks for the Blind, he set up a deal with Chicago indie label
Atavistic Records to re-issue a swarm of archival Swans material that should
keep fans busy for years to come.
First up on the re-release schedule are
classic Swans titles, Children of God and World of Skin, both
just out, and both remastered and repackaged, in the same fashion as
Soundtracks, in a
lush two-disc Digi-Pak set. And, according to Atavistic label impresario Kurt
Braden, they are just the first in a planned series of re-issues of the entire
Swans catalog on the band's Young God Records imprint.
band's best-seller ever and the album that signaled a change of direction
toward a more acoustic sound, incorporating piano, flute and 12-string guitar
("In My Garden") and the use of the studio as an instrument ("Like a Drug"),
also marked the blossoming of Gira's foil, Jarboe, into the forefront, thanks
to her eerie, breathy vocals on a number of songs, including the creepy
"Blackmail". The re-issue of Skin should shake Swanophiles out of their
eternal misery, if only for a moment, since that collection (released in two
parts in 1986 and 1988) has long been unavailable in the U.S. and is compiled
here for the first time in a remastered 16-track version. (The albums were
briefly available in the U.S. through Rough Trade, just before that company
"If you've had 15 illustrious years...
"If you've had 15 illustrious years performing and
recording as the Swans have," said Braden, of the career arc that ended last
year, "you have all kinds of records and different states of ownership and
states of satisfaction with mastering jobs and packaging. Our mutual goal with
these re-issues was to bring them up to the same deluxe level as Soundtracks
for the Blind."
What that means is a double CD digi-pak, over 70
minutes of remastered sound on each, a metallic ink finish and
artfully-designed booklets with original artwork. "For Children of God
it's the most exciting," said Braden, "since it's been out of print the longest
and it was really the album that brought them international attention and led
to their major-label debacle with MCA. It's the album that really made people
take notice of the band, so it's exciting to have it out again for the first
time in five years."
As for the pairing of Children with World
of Skin, Braden said the combination works because both albums come from
the 1986-88 era and also because Skin has never had a proper release in
the U.S., since it was released just as its distributor, Rough Trade, was going
Next up is the Swans' earliest work, a two-disc set of their first
EP (1982), the album Filth (1983) and Body to Body, Job to Job
(1991). That will be followed later in the year by a set chronicling the years
1984-86 featuring Cop, Raping a Slave, Greed and Holy
Money. Atavistic/Young God will also oversee the release of The
Somniloquist, an M. Gira spoken word album of readings from the singer's
2-13-61 (Henry Rollins) imprint book of short stories, The Consumer.
And, as if that isn't enough misery, there will eventually be a Jarboe
solo compilation and any number of new releases from Gira's two new post-Swans
projects, the Body Lovers, an ambient venture Braden described as "like
Soundtracks without words" and the Pleasure Seekers, a more acoustic
Additionally, Young Gods will be releasing work by a number of
still-unannounced artists, including "some exciting Scandinavian bands and some
American acts," according to Braden, many of whom are "using guitars for
And, lastly, the fall will bring a double-live Swans CD
covering the years 1995-97, including some unreleased material the band played
live but never committed to plastic.