Swans were born during the heyday of New York's no wave reaction to punk rock, on the Lower East Side. Led by brainchild, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Michael Gira, the group was formed after the demise of his first New York outfit, Circus Mort. Swans' first lineup consisted of Gira, guitarist Sue Hanel, and drummer Jonathan Kane. The trio played with kindred spirits Sonic Youth and did some rudimentary recordings that showcased the abrasive, percussively assaultive sonics Swans were later identified with. These initial sides surfaced on the Body to Body, Job to Job compilation. A different line-up included Kane, guitarist Bob Pezzola, and Daniel Galli-Duani on saxophone; they released a self-titled EP in 1982. Swans employed a shifting lineup of musicians until their dissolution in 1997. Besides Gira, the only other constant members were keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Jarboe from 1984 to 1997, and semi-constant guitarist Norman Westberg. The band became known for its experimental instrumentation and repetitive song structures. In 2009, news surfaced via the Young God home page that Gira might reconvene Swans for a set of songs he had written. In early 2010 the words "SWANS ARE NOT DEAD" appeared on his MySpace page. Later on, Gira reformed Swans without Jarboe. The new version of the band consisted of former as well as new members including guitarists Westberg and Christoph Hahn, drummer/percussionist Phil Puleo and drummer Thor Harris, and bassist Chris Pravdica. The band recorded the album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, which was released in September of 2010 on Young God. The live album We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head followed in 2012. In August of that year, Swans released the sprawling double album The Seer, an album that Gira claimed was 30 years in the making. Gira and his collaborators were hardly short on ideas by this point, and in 2014 they released another double album, To Be Kind, which featured guest vocals from St. Vincent.
Pharmakon is the noise project of 22-year-old New York native Margaret Chardiet. I first became aware of her a couple of years ago through her incredible live show-- surrounded by electronics and possessed with an intense multi-octave scream, she alternates between staring audience members down and disappearing into her own head.
For four years, Chardiet lived in, and helped run, the Far Rockaway, New York, punk house Red Light District. (I organized a show there in May 2011.) In January, due to Hurricane Sandy as well as personal reasons, Chardiet relocated from Red Light to another DIY space, 538 Johnson in Bushwick. Following this shift, and a handful of CD-R’s and cassettes, she’s about to release her first widely distributed collection, Abandon, on May 14 via Sacred Bones. The five-song record is a journey into Chardiet’s all-consuming approach: across 27 minutes, she moves between industrialized clatter, amped-up death-rants, chilly power electronics, and harrowing apocalyptic soundscapes. At times she brings to mind Diamanda Galás, at others Throbbing Gristle, early Swans, or Prurient. (Listen to the Abandon track "Crawling on Bruised Knees" above.)