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While much of Swans' 2010 full-length, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, reflects the expansive compositions of later Swans and Angels of Light, it also marks a distinct return to pronounced heaviness and high decibel levels.
"I wanted to experience an intense physical and spiritual onslaught that is involved with the kinds of sounds [Swans] make before it becomes impossible for me to do so," Gira explains. "I can't imagine doing that kind of thing when I'm 65."
When asked how that onslaught translates to the wide-open fairgrounds and towering stages of the international festival circuit, Gira maintains his enthusiasm for the present era. "It's really working out. I think [Swans] lends itself to large space. The music is very expansive and physical.
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"Kind of Wagnerian," he adds with a laugh.
He refers to 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner, who developed an emotionally charged school of opera called Gesamtkunstwerk, or, literally, "music-drama." The concept was that an opera's score should impart an epic, immediate experience for the viewer, a technique Gira has not finished exploring.
Wednesday's performance at Respectable Street will largely feature music from My Father... and yet-to-be released material. "The set is really a workout. It's an ordeal. But an ecstatic one in the end," Gira says. Much of the new material in the two-and-a-half-hour performance features what he describes as "long, long instrumental sections that undulate and change" and that ultimately "empty out into something really quiet and acoustic. There are a lot of dynamics developing."
Among the new, still developing material is what Gira describes as "one stretched piece of sound," a 35-minute opus that holds the distinction of being the longest Swans song ever.
"I don't know what format to release it in," Gira says of the total body of work. "It's two and a half hours of music." He continues to explain that he may toy with combinations of physical and digital. "Maybe I won't even look at it as an album but a burgeoning collection of music."
This freedom to experiment with form and format is endowed by Gira's own pedigree rooted in a music career unconcerned with trends and focused more on sustained and vigorous forward motion.
"I don't feel constrained by commercial factors," he says, "because I have my own label, and the music industry is so fucked anyway. I just do what I want."