Skin

Shame, Humility, Revenge

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Working under the Skin name for a second time, Gira and Jarboe here create another quietly intense listening experience, steering clear of Swans' nuclear-strength noise in favor of sparer and different songs and sounds -- indeed, on "24 Hours" it almost sounds like they're out to invent symphonic '70s lounge music! Intended as a full complement to the Jarboe-sung first Skin album Blood, Women, Roses (all of the songs for both albums were recorded during the same sessions), Shame features Gira taking all lead vocals, with Jarboe providing harmonizing and background vocals. The result is demonstrated to excellent effect on the heavily-echoed, brooding opener "Nothing About You," with Gira singing at his most portentous and commanding. Indeed, his long-incipient, newly controlled vocal delivery -- like Leonard Cohen with a slightly higher timbre half-chanting a mystic rite -- fully flowers here; his vocals here are as distinct as his more animalistic cries from earlier Swans days, but ultimately even more emotional and gripping. A bit of the old hectoring surfaces as well on "24 Hours," though even with a fairly strong drum program laying down the beat, Jarboe's wordless choir and the spacious arrangement keep things much more calm in comparison to, say, "Young God" or "Beautiful Child." In addition to some of the same string players from Blood, further guest musicianship comes on Indian oboe courtesy of A. Kadir Dorvesh. The instrument's unearthly wailing adds immeasurably to the atmosphere conjured on "Everything at Once," a truly dark piece rhythmically driven by a persistent, echo-laden acoustic guitar, and more gently on "The Center of Your Heart." In the latter, the oboe contrasts with Jarboe's wordless tones under a half-confessional, half-accusatory love lyric, delivered in a slow, spoken-word manner. Wrapping up with a ghostly acoustic cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog," Shame fulfills its particular brief well.

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