Friday, July 29, 2016

Swans - Okkyung Lee -- 9:30 Club - Jul 28 2016

Okkyung Lee - Like many Swans tours in the past, we open with something simple and direct, yet unique and somewhat experimental. Ms. Lee is a cellist with a fine musical grounding who has the vision to explore noise concepts with greater care than most. While others may butcher an instrument to create noise, Ms. Lee explores contrasting textures with a fine touch that requires both a solid understanding of the instrument and a creative direction. The audience definitely got into this as the attention and response was strong. You can see why she collaborates with many interesting musicians as she is also capable of holding a large crowd on a big stage all by herself.
Swans - In recent years, the UK has provided some fascinating dramatic police television series from remote locales. 'Vera' was the first of these as they explore the crimes across the barren terrain of northern England. 'Hinterland' is doing the same in Aberystwyth, Wales, while 'Shetland' (along with the novels of Peter May) take you deep into isolated small island living where there is darkness around distant corners and the sense of dread permeates the air of a rugged existence in a strangely beautifully cold environment. Swans could be the soundtrack to many of these scenes and stories as they carefully unveil their sonic majesty over the expansive evening they create. With unsettling events going on everywhere at all times, they remind you of all the darkness lurking far and near. Yet there is such delicately roaring power within their music to remind you of the journey through it all. They may be urban, but their music understands broad landscapes. Their extraordinary vision and execution continues to make them one of the most important bands in existence.

And thankfully, this 'retirement' tour is not quite a full retirement, although they may not work on this scale of touring ever again. Michael Gira will continue in some way and has mentioned that Swans may be back with different musicians, in different projects. Even tonight, there was a subtle effective shift as Thor Harris is off with Amanda Palmer and his position is taken up by Paul Wallfisch who plays more keyboards and less percussion, although since keyboards are a percussive instrument, he manages to add some fascinating sonics, while often playing in a percussive fashion. But it is still the three guitars cutting into fascinating rhythms and drones with Gira's vocals stretching things out even further that come together to overwhelm you. It sounds majestic tonight and I am thankful to be here.

Additional news - And speaking of retirement, I will use this semi-retirement tour to make the first written admission of what I have been telling people for many months now. I will be retiring this blog some time in the next 3 months. I will write up more later, but I am getting old, physically challenged, and even mentally overwhelmed at times. It is scary to think about not having this terrific work to do that I have enjoyed so much, but comes the time.... More later and I only hope that I get a few more shows as good as this one before I go.


Chris O. said...

Dave - I made it to see Swans last night, mostly on the basis of your past reviews of their shows at the Black Cat. It took me awhile to get into it, but it was pretty overwhelming when all was said and done.

I'm sorry to hear that you are likely to retire from blogging, but I guess if you feel you're reaching your journalistic expiration date, that's that. I hope to enjoy your blog for a few more months, and I hope your colleagues continue with their reviews in some manner, shape, or form.

I almost stopped to say "hi" last night, but I figured I needed to jockey for position on the floor. So my 63-year-old legs stood there waiting for 20 minutes or so, and then 2 1/4 hours for the show. My feet know what you mean about health issues.

Chris O.

David Hintz said...

Hi Chris. Glad you had a good Swans experience. Just as their music carefully builds into an epic structure over long periods of time, I think my love for the band has done so as well. And it sounds like you went from curious interest to impressed over the course of their long set. I really am liking drone bands more and more over the years, but it helps when you have those that can use vocals and songwriting skills like the Swans to bring it up to an even higher level.

Yeah, comes the time. Glad you are still going (fairly) strong as you have a few years on me. But it will be good to refresh and take some time off to do some other projects. I will keep you informed.

Thanks for reading and chatting all these years.