The iPhone ringtone "Ascending" is a whimsical series of marimba notes that rise in pitch and intensity for about four seconds. It's the kind of sound you expect to hear when a hyperactive cartoon character with a cantankerous giggle enters the frame, not when you're audio Skyping with the man who conceived the grueling powerhouse post-rock project Swans.
The iPhone ringtone ďAscendingĒ is a whimsical series of marimba notes that rise in pitch and intensity for about four seconds. Itís the kind of sound you expect to hear when a hyperactive cartoon character with a cantankerous giggle enters the frame, not when youíre audio Skyping with the man who conceived the grueling powerhouse post-rock project Swans.
But thatís Michael Giraís ringtone, and it keeps reverberating throughout his Woodstock home while we discuss his bandís past, present and future ó a future that includes a visit to The Bluestone this Wednesday with openers Pharmakon and The Unholy Two.
The zany iPhone soundbite seems like such a strange fit because over the past 31 years, Swans has developed a reputation as a bit of a downer. Youíll have that when your band plays bracing, blistering, brutally frank music, but Gira said such a negative interpretation misses the mark.
ďI never thought it was dark,Ē Gira said. ďI mean, certainly it was intense. But I didnít set out to be dark. I mean, what a horrible thing. Certain art, of course, has dark elements in it, but itís also beautiful and uplifting.Ē
Heís right. Swansí show at Outland in 2011 ó the bandís first appearance in Columbus since Gira revived the Swans identity after a dozen years fronting the experimental folk project Angels of Light ó was one transcendent walloping. Subtly tweaked repetitions spiraled into combustive sonic violence, the kind of bombast that mesmerizes before sending you reeling.
Back then the band was supporting comeback album My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, but given how rapidly Swansí live show evolves, itís possible it played a good chunk of 2012ís sonically and spiritually weighty double-LP The Seer. By now the group is on to almost all unreleased material, though a mutated version of ís 30-minute title track is still in the mix.
ďI donít want to be some band going out just promoting their album,Ē Gira said. ďI want to make a true experience happen. Thereís nothing wrong with that. Some groups can do it well. Iím just kind of beyond all that stuff. I donít even look at an album as a finished thing anymore. Itís just a picture of how things ended up at that time. Of course I work diligently on making the album as well-honed as possible, but once itís done, itís just kind of dead matter to me. Iím more interested in the moment.Ē