Above all, art is a gesture. It can never ever be the thing it is communicating about, interpreting or simulating. It can only be itself. And yet, that gesture, and how successfully it points towards a given idea, sensation or attitude, is what makes it substantive. In other words, its value is in how well it can reveal truth.
Swans, the continually evolving projet d’art of Michael Gira, are true, but it took me a long time to discover this. I had heard that they were infamous for driving listeners out of clubs in the early 80’s at the tail end of the No Wave scene. I had heard that their music was confrontational and abrasive. I read that their music had been having a resurgence and were on a victory lap touring off of their best work to date – a pair of double albums called “The Seer” (2012, Young God) and “To Be Kind” (2014, Young God). I also heard that seeing them live was a singular kind of religious experience. I was intimidated and yet, as curious as a child testing his own threshold for pain on the flame of a stovetop or in a brawl at the schoolyard. Swans recently played in New York City to a sold out crowd at the Bowery Ballroom. It was my second time seeing them perform. My first time was a few weeks before in Brooklyn, also to a sold-out crowd. How sadistic of me.