Swans The Great Annihilator

One of several Swans/Michael Gira-related projects put out by Young God Records recently, The Great Annihilator was originally released in 1995 and is a varied collection of the weird and the experimental, the beautiful and the bizarre. Somewhere between art rock and early '80s post-punk, this now defunct band was the brainchild of lead singer/musician/producer Michael Gira, and Gira's understated monotone vocals are about the only constant on this 17-song release. However, the vocal duties are shared with Jarboe, whose treatment alternates between the gothic, neo-classical and the downright bratty. Fans of Sonic Youth will find familiarity here with the layers of heavy, driving guitars ("Celebrity Lifestyle"), yet they do a complete about face and go in for simpler delicate piano and string arrangements in true gothic form ("Warm"). To go from the mellow and slow to the noisy and experimental is to show their talent and versatility, and this is ultimately what makes this album work. (Young God)