1991, Music

White Light From the Mouth of Infinity (1991) by Swans

I have only ever heard one Swans album previously, and I have seen them live once. The cumulative result of that was that I think I can say that they are a band that is an acquired taste and that is more impressive (if not likable) live. This record completely changed my mind.

I respect Children of God but I don’t know that I like it…yet. I also respect a band that can be so loud that I wanted earplugs over 100m from the stage while I was outdoors (!). But I don’t know that I like that either. (They are so loud they can make people sick. I’ve seen it.)

But this record is different. This record feels like a concession to melody in the sense that there lots of melodies and some of them are pretty strong. And it’s a concession that maybe just making pummeling noise your whole life isn’t the only thing you can do. But if it was just concessions towards more normal music, it wouldn’t be great.

Gira and co have created a series of incredibly impressive songs that manage to combine their penchant for pummeling noise and his penchant for dark lyrics with ethereal beauty in a way that I never imagined possible. This record feels like the Swans I was expecting but didn’t find on Children of God. It’s a rather awesome combination of a fairly radical, uncompromising musical vision with the things that are necessary to make people actually listen to music. I don’t know that I’ve heard anything else like it.


All tracks written by Michael Gira.

  1. “Better Than You” 5:51
  2. “Power and Sacrifice” 5:37
  3. “You Know Nothing” 5:46
  4. “Song for Dead Time” 5:24
  5. “Will We Survive” 6:51
  6. “Love Will Save You” 6:06
  7. “Failure” 6:20
  8. “Song for the Sun” 5:03
  9. “Miracle of Love” 6:43
  10. “When She Breathes” 5:03
  11. “Why Are We Alive?” 5:29
  12. “The Most Unfortunate Lie” 5:02
  • Michael Gira – vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, effects, samples, production
  • Jarboe – vocals, backing vocals, keyboards, choral and orchestral arrangements
  • Christoph Hahn – acoustic and electric guitar
  • Cliton Steele – acoustic and electric guitar
  • Norman Westberg – electric guitar
  • Jenny Wade – bass guitar
  • Anton Fier – drums, drum programming
  • Nicky Skopelitis – acoustic and electric guitar, baglama, bazouki, banjo
  • Vincent Signorelli – percussion
  • Hahn Rowe – violin
  • Steve Burgh – mandolin, 12-string guitar

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