You’ve got only a limited time alive, so you’ve got to use your imagination. Otherwise, you’ll die of boredom, quick.
M. Gira

Life is too short not to fill it with real things.
Jeanette Winterson

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The Realization of the Primal Brutality of Man

 

So, what can you do this autumn? Evening closes in fast already these days, the shadows on the streets turn blue quickly, then disappear. You realize that sometimes you’re listening to your own bones as they wait for the cold to creep into the days and slowly conquer them. And there is a special day.

The 4 of October has been the remembrance day of Saint Francis of Assisi for quite a long time. You know him for sure, the guy who wrote that strangely serene, yet beautiful hymn which you probably didn’t read, and who’s famous for preaching to the birds. That’s cute, isn’t it? You can visualize him instantly in faded sepia colors, as if he has just stepped out of a Zeffirelli flick, walking barefoot on the thick grass of a luscious park, stopping at a pomegranate tree to tell something really important, very poetic and easy to remember about God’s goodness (p.e. “Lookee here, God is good, capisci?”) to the nightingales and robins. There should even be a flamingo standing nearby, eavesdropping. Right? Fuck that.
Frances was a genuinely cool kid, so first he tried to help his fellow men and guide them. His original plot was to preach to his people and make them repent and then, you know, redemption, eternal life in God’s loving light and all that stuff. Only he realized that his people didn’t give a shit about any of those. On top of that, after graciously accepting his help they robbed him too, just to be on the safe side, and even would have killed him, if that was possible. So, when he admitted that his neighborhood was filled with dead men who were still walking and doing harm, he chose the nicer dead, and off he went to the cemetery, which at those times was more like an open-air person-rotting plot, not resembling at all to the very pleasingly landscaped parks which we know as cemeteries nowadays. There the dead were basically lying around and rotting silently, occasionally being chewed or bitten by this animal or that, but at least they did not kill each other any more. So there was this hippyesque kid immersed in conversation with these carcasses, and there were the crows too, nibbling on the eyes of the same carcasses. That’s how the legend started, anyway. You can take it for a fact.

At least the part about totally dead people being a better company for a bright and clean soul then the average citizen, which keeps itself looking alive, although he died of boredom ages ago. And you can take for fact the part which was carefully omitted: man is basically and originally a greedy and cruel monkey, it has in its instincts to strike down and eat the infant of its neighbor if this deed helps him out either in keeping its territory or with its hunger.

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Now, what could you do to celebrate the day of Saint Francis of Assisi in style? For example you could go and see the Swans (playing that night in Porto, but they are in Europe whole autumn), so you could honor both the obsession with animals with wings and the realization of the primal brutality of man.

But really, how come that the creature who boasts to have invented morals and arts is such a shame? How come that some people love each other and others rape each other and both are the same people? It hurts me. It hurts anybody who has ever thought more than one thought. And it also needs an answer. The Swans answer it very simply: with honesty. They have looked the human beast in the eye and went forward to look at it in every possible angle. And now they build this larger-than-life sound scenery, where the bleak rottenness of the man (as it is) can be seen in its tremendous monolithic glory. They repeat it until it fills your guts. They bring it physically close to you with the so-famous loud soundwaves of theirs. They drown you in it.

OK, let’s talk business. If you heaven’t heard anything about Swans, don’t bother yourself with them now, and if you have heard about them already, this piece won’t add anything to it, because you are already aware of their cult and their critics, and you possibly have your opinion about them. Both of you: keep up the good work. But most likely you belong to the majority of normal people, who are unable to form an opinion of them. Walk on, dear carcass, please feel free to look down on these freaks who form their repulsion into something living, moving and breathing.

I only have one strong memory about Swans: they gave me one of the most profound experiences of my own self on one of their concerts. Maybe that frightening experience is the reason why I keep trying to persuade you to go and see them. After that concert I felt strangely alive. You know, feeling alive is redundant in itself. If you feel, you should be alive. These kids teach you that it’s not enough. (Look, I know that they are almost as old as my parents. That’s what I’m trying to get to explain, that this kind of painful purity only exists in kids. By the way, kids are cool too, not in the pink flamingoes way, but as John Waters is cool, but that’s a very different story.)

So here we are, after carefully peeling off the victims of death-by-boredom and the bulging veins of the folks obsessed with their own wit and haute culture. We are amongst ourselves then, the people who feel able to be killed simply by the fact that they belong to this self-damning species, people who daily die of being people. What do we do? We can’t forget and we can’t escape. We watch ourselves and we watch them. We see our bodies, we see theirs. We move, we speak, we stay, we are. They are, too. And we don’t know what’s the difference between us and them, if there’s any. We feel. Shame, anger, pain, disdain, remorse, more pain. We suffer. If only we could cease existing, but we can’t. Did you know that there is a Tasmanian belief that drowned people’s souls go into the seals? You can’t just give it up, and that’s a proven fact, too. We can’t undo ourselves and know we can’t leave it at that. This is the point where the Swans and I have something in common. They have their own answer for this perplexing contradiction, and I understand that, even like it. I’m glad I know their answer.

Back to the great big answer of Swans, which I mentioned once already. On their concerts they see you as you are, they call out to your body and soul and mind as they are, as a whole creature, not as if you were built from separate stones, not as if you were put together from detachable parts. They use the force of their skin-breaking volume and their chewed-to-bones repetition to put you in a frightful trance, and just when you become absolutely defenseless and vulnerable, they show you one glimpse of the human beast, just enough to understand its enormity and might. At this point every healthy person in the audience dies (or at least they become deaf and mute and blind, like those Old Testament folks who were brought up to God for a friendly chatter). The kids on stage continue without a pause. They take those, who died, off with themselves. They let them float. They show them how it feels to gently, effortlessly float over the filth.
They show you that because you recognized the beast, you can’t be it. You feel the calmness of your explosion.
From that point on, whenever you see the beast, you feel relieved, because you know that if you see it, it’s outside of you. Sometimes, when you feel so worn by the evils of everyday existence, that you can’t even fall asleep, you put on a very long Swans track, as loudly as your feeble speakers can do. It’s not the same, not even close, but it’s enough. Maybe you need a few more tracks, but sooner or later it works, you fall asleep calmly.

This is what’s been happening with me since that better concert of M. Gira. I know he can do this. I strongly recommend you to try, even accepting the possibility that he might not do this that night, or that you could not go through with this. What can you loose? Two hours. What can you gain? Go, see.

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During the recordings of brand new album “To Be Kind“, Michael Gira, head of Swans, wrote on Facebook: „reading this slowly, after my day in studio each night. beautiful and harrowing. awful and exquisite. highly recommended!”

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