Give Up The Roast is a column that collides delicious caffeine with auditory revelry a la a bi-monthly coffee and album pairing—the perfect combination for perking you up during that midday slump. Here, columnist Shannon Shreibak investigates all of the notes, from fruit rinds and spices to perfect fifths smothered in grinding distortion. So come on all you coffee shop novelists, DIY freaks, and connoisseurs of fine taste—keep your mind here in the GUTR and catch a buzz with us.
From a string of brutalist masterpieces scattered throughout the past decade to sizzling in the spotlight of high-profile controversy, Swans has savored more notoriety than any of their New York no-wave counterparts could have conjured in a “fire engine dream.” But even geniuses work hard, and 1997 became Swans’ End Imminent, bowing out with the pictorial vastness of 1996’s “Soundtracks for the Blind.”
After a 14-year hibernation in the underbelly of the Americana scene, bandleader Michael Gira resurrected Swans as a six-piece and released “My Father Will Guide Me A Rope To The Sky.” While an aversion to melody and penchant for brutal volumes have become tired and true experimental rock tropes, Swans’ 14th LP flaunted the band’s nonpareil ability to wade between poles—the Lord and Lucifer, sex and death, glory and gore.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN (BACKGROUND)
After a glimmer-goth phase fortified with craggy synth lines and squeamish ambience, Swans disbanded into the ether from whence they came. Gira embraced the cowboy marauder jangling within him with Angels of Light, and Swans was left to fester in the purgatory it had soundtracked for decades. As the doldrums grew too quiet for comfort, Gira’s reclaimed his rightful role as drone king, and Swans returned just as triumphantly and mercilessly as they began. “My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky” isn’t a comeback record—it’s the sound of Gira toiling through his own Long Dark Night, a droll, pitiless, and Godless existence.
BRASS TACKS (THE COFFEE)
Similar to Swans’ commitment to shattering, pummeling, and altogether destroying the world that hosts them, Supersonic Coffee seeks to “break barriers,” from the palate to presentation. Supersonic prides itself on a global network of coffee nuts and roasting experts, only using the most exotic and high-quality ingredients. The California-based roaster’s most complex blend, the Kathakwa, hails from Kirinyaga, Kenya, and forms a mosaic of tart and saccharine flavors.
Grown on the slopes of Mount Kenya, an area known for its intense and complex coffee yields, the cup bursts with the subtle sourness of kumquat and mellow sweetness candied apple. Each sip is further grounded by a raisin aftertaste, holding its own against a myriad of flavors. Dexterous and surprising, a scalding-hot cup of Kathakwa is a self-evident match for the unfuckwithable horsepower of Swans.
WHITE NOISE (THE MUSIC)
Following years spent churning out sparse folk during his Swan-less years, “My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky” welcomes a relented Michael Gira, who has conceded his Old Testament fire-and-brimstone for a world of abject beauty.
The album is pried open by “No Words/No Thoughts,” a nearly 10-minute epic that glides in with church chimes ringing in Reckoning. But bliss never lasts long in Gira’s world, with not even a minute passing before the idyllic scape is sawed by blasting reverb and swaths of distortion. Gira pays shameless homage to Lou Reed with the suave vocals of “Reeling The Liars In,” a campfire hymn that chugs along to a Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western groove.
The tarred-and-feathered lunacy of “My Father…” continues with “Jim,” a death march across a bedrock of cymbals snaps and snare, and “My Birth,” an apocalyptic memoir complete with sirening guitars and dense backbeat. The album highlight, “You Fucking People Make Me sick” introduces the LP’s livelier second half with a ruthless five-minute crescendo. Beginning with a haunting synth line and a few lines of David Lynch-inspired vocals, the song stumbles into a maelstrom of wheezing horns and ham-handed percussion.
Continuing Gira’s reign of terror, “Eden Prison” ruminates on a fall from grace of Biblical proportions with help from spritely guitars and defiant nuggets of poetry like, “The supine wild beast upon the slab / Would gladly rip the throat from God if only he could reach up to his white ass.” The album caps with God-loitered, love-laden “Little Mouth,” an acoustic aria that sounds as if Gira has finally been guided up that Rope to the Sky.
Column by Shannon Shreibak. Go forth and be loud with her on Twitter @ShannonShreibak.