Michael Gira

Drainland

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    5
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Given how Gira made Swans such a personal and broad-ranging vehicle for his art over the years, it would have been more than understandable if Drainland, released as a complement to Jarboe's album from the same year Sacrificial Cake, turned out to be Swans redux album as a result. As it happens, it's less of a mixed bag than Jarboe's own musically varied solo efforts, yet it has distinct strengths. Assisted by Jarboe and late-period Swans member Bill Rieflin, at whose Seattle home most of the album was recorded, Gira brings his expected bleak, alienated but still heartfelt lyrical visions to the fore, steering away from the full, epic grind of Swans and towards a variety of more restrained musical visions. "Where Does Your Body Begin?" is one of the more overtly Swans-like tracks, recalling gentler yet dark efforts such as "Failure" with acoustic guitar at its center; similarly acoustic-based tracks include "Unreal" and "Your Naked Body," though they all have various extra instrumental touches -- keyboards, samples, even what sounds like mooing cows at one point -- to fill out the pieces in an intricate fashion. "I See Them All Lined Up," in contrast, consists almost solely of a bassline/percussion sample with plenty of silences throughout over Gira's near-spoken vocals. Perhaps most revelatory of all are the flashes of humor at points: "Fan Letter" is particularly coruscating yet sometimes intentionally over the top rip on rock star culture and expectations married to a weirdly jaunty keyboard and odd vocal noises; "Why I Ate My Wife" has one of the funnier titles around. While "Low Life Form" sounds the most like a Swans track, the closing number, "Blind," actually is a Swans song. Taken from a session for the White Light album, it wraps up Drainland on a gentle, softly string-laden note.

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