It’s a new world we’re living in, post-Yellow Swans. After Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s final joint venture Going Places was released earlier this year, the hearing populace has had to cope with the actuality that there will never, NEVER be another Yellow Swans album (NEVER). Luckily, Mr. Swanson has decided to sidle up next to us, pat us on the head, and tell us that life is still pretty groovy by releasing a crap-ton of albums this year: the aforementioned Going Places, a troika of cassettes (Challenger, Ghost O Clock, and Signs of Life), a split with Rene Hell (Waiting For The Ladies), and the retrospective compilation Where I Was. And if those weren’t enough, we now have his first solo full-length LP, Feelings in America.
On Feelings, we find Pete in similar, though not altogether identical, territories as in Going Places, most notably though his emphasis on slow-burning drones. But unlike Going Places, which has an undercurrent of beats and additional electronic manipulations, Feelings is the sole product of Swanson’s vocals and a processed guitar. The aesthetic ranges from a well-spackled wall-of-noise (“The Fermata”) to a gorgeously hollow guitar loop (“Believers”), both of which bear resemblance to Swans’ past, yet are singularly Swanson’s. Repeated listens are rewarded immensely, exposing an incredible breadth in expression.
Despite this sonic richness, the emotional content, as I hear it, is distinctly singular; in Feelings, there is a pervasive sense of loss and loneliness. This mood is so strong and projective that I can’t help but be pulled down by Feelings — indeed, late-night listens are not recommended for the distraught. This might not sound particularly appealing to some of you — who wants to listen to something that’ll make them feel crummy? — but the semiotic ambiguity of Swanson’s music allows listeners to align whatever moods they want with the sounds, unlike some of Yellow Swans’ music, which were often heard politically due to Saloman’s speeches/explanations during live shows.
Setting aside this fluidity in interpretation, I’m boggled by how diverse Swanson’s drones are and, moreover, how they are generated by so little. In fact, it’s flabbergasting how consistent Swanson has been this year, and I’m elated that Feelings in America is no exception.